Johann Sebastian Bach: The Art of Fugue, BVW 1080
Andrew Rangell, piano
Recorded at the Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts (December 19-21, 2011) – 74’26
ArkivMusic LLC, Steinway & Sons 30012 – Booklet in English with photos, bio, and notes.
I can hardly get enough of listening to this recording. It hypnotizes me. It takes me to a good and comforting place. Each successive listening reveals a seemingly, heretofore unnoticed beauty and profound polyphonic mystery. I realize how excessive this sounds, but this is how Andrew Rangell’s playing of J. S. Bach affects me.
This recording of The Art of Fugue is immediately distinguished by a stature of greatness, that sets it apart from recordings by other pianists of the current generation, and places it securely on the shelf beside the likes of Wanda Landowska, Edwin Fischer, Glenn Gould, Roselyn Tureck, and the legendary Russian pianist Maria Yudina.
The Art of Fugue is Bach’s last major composition, and as such is a prodigious testament to his genius and imagination in the craft of counterpoint. It is composed of fourteen fugues and four canons thematically related; a comprehensive and illustrated manual of counterpoint, to paraphrase Mr. Rangell. The miracle of this composition however, is that it is not merely a musical textbook. It is an enormously moving poetic meditation, and it is this “Poetry” I feel, which Andrew Rangell evokes and reveals to us like no other previous interpreter.
There are no quirks or exaggerations in his playing whatever. It is exaggerated tempi and quirky phrasing that are the Hallmarks of Glenn Gould’s playing. Mr. Rangell unfolds the work in a slow and deliberate manner, giving the music plenty of room to speak for itself without the need of over-emphasis or calculated phrasing and tempi.
If your recordings of Wanda Landowska and Roselyn Tureck are accumulating cobwebs, and Glenn Gould’s highly stylized performances are not sounding as fresh as they once did, you will want to “give ear” immediately to this new and fascinating recording. I guarantee it will not disappoint you, but will shine new lights on many old and familiar passageways down the halls of J. S. Bach.
This recording of J. S. Bach’s The Art of Fugue by Andrew Rangell is part of an ongoing series of piano recitals by Steinway & Sons for ArkivMusic LLC. This series of digital recordings is sonically among the finest ever engineered. Upon first hearing you will immediately notice the superiority of the sound. The rich sonority of the Steinway Piano is beautifully captured and preserved, giving an added depth to your pleasure and enjoyment of this recording.