BACH: Little Prelude in A Minor, BWV 942; Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903; Praeludium in G, BWV 902; French Overture in B Minor, BWV 831; Little Prelude in D, BWV 936; Italian Concerto in F, BWV 971 – Andrew Rangell, piano – Bridge

by | Jun 15, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BACH: Little Prelude in A Minor, BWV 942; Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903; Praeludium in G, BWV 902; French Overture in B Minor, BWV 831; Little Prelude in D, BWV 936; Italian Concerto in F, BWV 971 – Andrew Rangell, piano – Bridge 9180,   61:11 (Distrib. Albany) ***:

A musician with his own ideas about tempo and phrasing, Andrew Rangell has built up a distinctive discography of composers ranging from Bach and Beethoven to Ravel and Chopin. Playing the Hamburg Steinway D in 2003, Rangell projects a fierce and hard patina, so the percussive elements, the staccati and non-lagato notes, emerge with significant force. The tempos tend to a degree of ritard, maybe for clarity’s sake.  If some performers can make Liszt sound like Bach, Rangell makes Bach sound like Liszt. Combining several popular works of Bach with a few rarities, Rangell gives an hour of the Master in deliberate, even mannered, colors.  Like Glenn Gould’s Bach, Rangell’s may become an acquired taste.

The lovely Praeludium in G (not a part of the WTC) emerges in four-part polyphony, graciously improvisational.  The two Little Preludes are charming, although ingenuously brilliant, vignettes written for the household practice of Anna Magdalena Bach and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Placing the D Major Prelude between the massive Overture in B Minor and the concluding Italian Concerto allows a much needed repose. The opening of the Concerto jumps out, frothy; but Rangell’s sense of mirth is tempered by his own veneration for profundity. Rangell does urge some real brio out of the Presto finale of the Italian Concerto – a playful, mad dash full of harmonic surprises. The Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue is well executed, but it sounds a bit contrived in character, overly studied. The recitativo section beguiles Rangell even more than extempore passages. The relentless fugue builds up a terrific tension and sense of imminent calamity; but for me, the playing lacks spontaneity. The really monumental work, the B Minor Overture (1735), proves the most gripping exercise in the recital. Orchestral in sumptuous detail, the six movements as an aggregate try to counter, by means of their collective vitality,  the intense seriousness of the opening tragedy. Without an allemande, the piece has a powerful, serious, fugal character. Some will find Rangell’s touch heavy; I think he lightens up the texture of the two Bourrees enough to let a smile sneak in. As per expectation, Rangell’s playing of the Courante and Sarabande communicates high-minded gravity.

— Gary Lemco

Related Reviews