“A Bouquet of Beethoven”
Ludwig van Beethoven: Polonaise in C major, opus 89 – Sonata N° 22 in F major, opus 54 – Bagatelle in A minor, WoO 59 “Für Elise” – 24 Variations on Righini’s “Venni amore”, WoO 65 – Six Ecossaises, WoO 83 – Sonata N° 18 in E-Flat major, opus 31, n° 3 – Bagatelle in C minor, WoO 52 – Five Variations on “Rule Britannia”, WoO 79 – String Quartet N° 11 in F minor, opus 95: II. Allegretto ma non troppo (arr. A. Rangell) – Sonata N° 14 in C-Sharp minor, opus 27, n° 2 “Moonlight” – Klavierstücke in B minor, WoO 61 – Sonata N° 15 in D major, opus 28 “Pastorale” – Allegretto in C minor, WoO 53 – Six Variations in F major, opus 34 – Klavierstück in B-Flat major, WoO 60
Andrew Rangell (piano)
Recording: Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts (September 2013 and November 2016) – 150’14
Steinway & Sons 30080 (2 CDs) – Booklet in English (Distributed by Bucklesweet Media)
Master conveyor of Bach and Beethoven, Andrew Rangell has been able to re-define himself in ways others can’t imagine. Back in 1991 the Julliard-trained pianist ran into a roadblock with an enervating condition of nerve and muscle in his hands. Forced into temporary retirement, he would eventually return to his beloved profession after patient therapy and finding new ways to re-configure the keyboard’s technical demands. Limitations are not part of this gentleman’s vocabulary, rather we find him determining his own path of refreshed interpretations of these Beethoven works.
“A Bouquet of Beethoven” has splendid selection and sequence, giving the album variety, contrast and balance. It’s an enjoyment to delve into “mainstream” Beethoven while dabbling through more obscure outliers.
From personal perspective, first focusing on the underperformed pieces holds keener interest, particularly when being titillated by the opening Polonaise in C major. Mr. Rangell’s preamble builds with anticipation that cascades into the dance that’s ambitiously nuanced yet never overplayed. Another treat is the Righini “Venni amore” Variations whereby extensions are pronounced, pleasantly pausing as if to “clear the mind” before moving to forward passages; the alternation between left hand and right hand dominance is clearly understood. Splitting the weight on the first CD, Six Ecossaises is a sprite éclaircissement, sort of a musical amuse-bouche. Beethoven’s Six Variations in F major allow Mr. Rangell to present powerful contrasts with careful distinction and delight. He colorfully raises his own royal scepter with a grand statement inside the Five Variations on “Rule Brittania.” Pulling from the String Quartet N° 11 in F minor, the artist decided a re-visit of the “Serioso” movement from a pianist’s perspective that, otherwise, has been a piece deemed “un improvable”...he certainly has made a new definition to this fugal discourse.
Andrew Rangell has a palatable take on several of the “favorites.” While he can express with great depth on slower sections inside the Sonatas, it’s the faster segments which never cease to dazzle. For example, the “Allegro” inside the Sonata N° 18 is effortless; it never gets unhinged while an unabashed momentum supports the frenetically-driven “Presto con fuoco.” Falling into the trap of being overly affected, his Für Elise, however, is well-mannered and never gets schmaltzy. Even though Andrew Rangell’s take of the two opening movements within the Sonata N° 14 trend a bit lethargic, it really makes sense: the tempo nicely sets itself up for a powerful shift in energy upon the conclusive “Presto agitato.”
Beethoven aficionados will do well by looking into this CD. Recommended.