Andrew Rangell

Beethoven: The Final Masterworks for Piano

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American pianist Andrew Rangell has a gift for unorthodox readings that are compelling even if you can't quite concur with the steps he takes. In his youth, he would sometimes whistle the optional flute part of the Ives Piano Sonata No. 2 ("Concord"). Since beginning an association with the Steinway & Sons label he has recorded major mainstream repertory items, and here he keeps to his independent watys in traversing Beethoven's late piano music. The set is never dull, and there are many striking moments. Chief among them are the finale of the mighty Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 ("Hammerklavier"), where he seems on the point of tearing the piano apart. The slow movements are deeply introspective, and the time he takes in the big variation sets, especially the finale of the Piano Sonata in E major, Op. 109, lets the massive trills build slowly and emerge as some unheard-of force of nature. The overall program is strong as well. The Bagatelles, Op. 126, are usually paired with Beethoven's earlier two sets of bagatelles, but they are profound small pieces and belong where Rangell places them here, as the capstone of Beethoven's pianistic output. What's not to like? Maybe nothing: Rangell keeps up the momentum over long arcs of music. Or maybe the violent scherzos and the general abruptly sharp contrasts will provide an unwelcome jolt. Sample the first two movements of the Op. 109 Sonata: the first is unusually slow and almost dreamy, while the second is slammed. Rangell's intensity serves him very well indeed in the "Hammerklavier," but not so well in the 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, where the work's interplay with its simple theme is lost and its humorous moments seem to come out of the blue. The bagatelles have ecstatic moments, but other stretches in which detail is lost: the ragtime-like syncopations in the B minor piece are lost in a blur of speed. Even bearing all this in mind, this is well worth the time of the serious Beethoven collector; Rangell does things with these towering works that nobody else has done before.

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120
1 00:58
2 01:34
3 01:01
4 01:44
5 00:55
6 00:53
7 01:12
8 00:57
9 01:04
10 01:02
11 00:33
12 00:47
13 01:12
14 00:55
15 02:27
16 00:34
17 00:56
18 00:54
19 00:53
20 00:49
21 01:25
22 01:04
23 00:47
24 00:47
25 01:19
26 00:51
27 00:56
28 00:54
29 00:31
30 01:21
31 01:38
32 05:24
33 02:44
34 05:03
Bagatelles, Op. 126
35 03:34
36 02:40
37 03:27
38 03:34
39 03:04
40 04:44
blue highlight denotes track pick