Andrew Rangell

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas

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Like the audaciously intellectual and supremely gifted pianist he was, Andrew Rangell made his national-label debut in 1991 with a recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations and the first two of Beethoven's late sonatas, including the Hammerklavier. They were stupendous performances: intellectually blazing, technically blistering, and interpretively impulsive, even reckless performances. Rangell followed these the next year with an equally incandescent recording of the last three of Beethoven's late sonatas, then returned in three years with a wonderfully expressive disc of shorter piano pieces called A Recital of Intimate Works and followed that a year later with a second and similarly aesthetically successful Intimates Works disc. After almost a decade, Rangell returned in 2005 with the first disc of a projected cycle of the complete piano sonatas of Beethoven. While he was recognizably the same pianist with the same powerful mind and strong fingers, Rangell had mellowed a bit as a Beethoven player. In the tragically dramatic D minor "Tempest" Sonata, Rangell's playing was less explosive and more concentrated. In the sorrowfully consoling E minor Sonata, his playing was less dramatic and more inward. In the lyrically exuberant F sharp major Sonata, his playing was less assaultive and more humorous. And in the G major and E major sonatas from Op. 14, his playing had a whimsical charm that, while absent from his earlier late Beethoven recordings, had been abundantly evident in his Intimate Works discs. Listeners who had followed Rangell's career were thrilled by his return and gratified to know that his youthful energy had grown into mature wisdom. Bridge's sound just about put Rangell and his piano in the room with the listener.

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