Andrew Rangell

From the Early 20th...: Ives, Nielsen, Enescu, Schoenberg

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American pianist Andrew Rangell has specialized in the Ives Piano Sonata No. 2 ("Concord") for many years, performing an unorthodox interpretation that may strike listeners in different ways. He alters the score in ways that somehow seem sympathetic to the music: for the optional flute part in the finale, he whistles, an effect that one suspects Ives would have loved. In general he conveys the sonata's tone, which is at once ecstatic and reflective toward the musical past. Even those less enamored of his approach may profitably experience this release on the U.S. Steinway & Sons label, which seems uniquely suited to Rangell's novel concepts and idiosyncratic but charismatic approach. The tendency among American listeners has been to regard Ives as a figure working in majestic isolation, but Rangell instead groups him with other composers "from the early 20th," as his album's title has it. As usual with Rangell, not everybody is going to accept his conclusions, but he makes a persuasive case. Ives, in his view, drew on a strain of thinking that was transcendental (and not just Transcendentalist), and that appealed to European composers as well. It might manifest itself in an assault on tonality (Schoenberg, but certainly Ives as well), vivid tone painting (sample the lovely and little-known Carillon Nocturne of Enescu, which seems to quote the Beethoven "fate" motif that also appears in Ives' "Alcotts" movement), and a wholesale rethinking of classical forms (as in the Nielsen Three Pieces for piano, Op. 59). You might raise objections to each of these lines of thinking, but these are all works Ives might have known, and the end result is to make you hear the "Concord" sonata in a new way, which is a considerable achievement. Recommended.

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