A legend in his own time, classical pianist Andrew Rangell was praised by music critics for his fresh, contemporary interpretations of Bach, Beethoven, Schoenberg, and even Charles Ives. Born in Chicago in 1948, Rangell was soon uprooted from the midwest when his family moved to Colorado. It was here that he began studying piano as a young child. His parents strongly stressed the value of classical music and the fine arts, so young Rangell was exposed the European classical masters at an early age. He seemed quite receptive and became a diligent student. It is important to note that he comes from one of the most unique musical families in the United States. While some families have one or two celebrities in their family tree, the Rangell family has produced a quartet of powerful and original musical performers.
However, no matter what their musical taste, all of the siblings looked up to their big brother. They all understood the value of the classical training they had received as part of their family tradition. And while Rangell has dabbled in jazz—he released an album of a musical duo fantasy between Bill Evans entitled Conversations with Bill Evans —he remained dedicated to providing fresh interpretations of the classics. Rangell’s strength was in making old music sound new vibrant, and relevant to contemporary audiences. Rangell’s performances were known to cover a wide range of periods in classical music history. As the New York Times wrote, “There are so many pianists before the public today that the category, ‘atypical pianist’ has itself become typical. But Andrew Rangell genuinely stands out, at once free spirited and precise, he has the mark of an original artist. The audience receives his intimate artistry with enthusiasm and gratitude.”
As a young man, Rangell attended the prestigious Juilliard School, where he earned a doctoral degree in piano under Beveridge Webster. Some time later, he made his debut in New York as winner of the Malraux Award of the Concert Artists Guild. As his career blossomed, Rangell performed in recitals throughout the United States, with memorable highlights at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 92nd Street Y and Columbia’s Miller Theater. He made his Boston debut in 1977, where he would play a vital role in that city’s musical life. From 1977-85, he was resident artist and chief piano instructor at Dartmouth College. He was also a regularly occurring guest for a number of New England’s prominent performing groups and festivals.
Rangell’s repertoire covers a wide range of interests and affinities. He has recorded works taken from many periods in the history of the classics; great works from Bach to Schoenberg to Ives. From 1984-85, he performed as a member of a musical quintet in a series of Bach programs at Boston’s Gardner Museum. This included keyboard concertos, the six partitas and the Goldberg Variations. Rangell has received critical laurels from many critics and the listening public alike for his work with the Goldberg Variations, one of his most well known and admired performances. “Rangell plays his Goldbergs with flair and nimbleness (Var. 12, for e.g.),” wrote music critic Freddie Sng, of the J.S. Bach’s Home Music Page, “His Bach is entertaining and he is able to hold the listener’s interest throughout. No repetition is made at all, but the “Toccato” in F-sharp minor and the two “Ricercares” from the Musical Offering compensates for it. A very well and systematic presentation of the sleeve notes comes with this equally superb digital recording.”
Rangell’s interpretations of the Ives’ sonatas are a pleasure to hear as well as being a musically challenging to the intellect. One of the most unique aspects of Rangell’s performances was his unconventionality while playing almost sacrosanct classical works. For instance, twenty years ago when he first started playing “The Carillon Nocturne” before audiences he shocked the crowd by whistling the song as he played it, the whole act being perfectly in tune. Rangell is most renown, however, for his interpretations of Beethoven’s
Born 1948 in Chicago, IL. Education: Attended Julliard School; studied with Beveridge Webster.
Began studying classical music at an early age; made his New York debut as the winner of the Malraux Award of the Concert Artists Guild; performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 92nd Street Y, and Columbia’s Miller Theater; resident artist and chief piano instructor, Dartmouth College, 1977-85; regular guest for some of New England’s most prominent theatrical groups and festivals; spent three successive seasons devoted to the performance, in a seven concert series of all Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas from the years 1986-89; performed the thirty-two piano sonatas, 1986-89; repeated cycle ten times with performances at Boston’s Jordan Hall, the 92nd Street Y in New York; performed at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival; progressive nerve and muscular disorders in his hands forced the pianist to temporarily retire in 1991; reappeared and perfomed in public on limited basis; performed at the Millenium 3 recital series, 1998; appeared with long time friend and musical colleague, violinist Rolf Schulte at the Rock-port Chamber Music Festival, 1998; appeared at Sseully Hall at the Boston Conservatory, 1998; performed an all-Chopin recital which included the 4 Ballades at the Gardner Museum, 1998.
Addresses: Record company —Dorian Music, P.O. Box 285, Aylesbury, HP22, 4SX, U.K.
works. During the 1986-89 seasons, Rangell performed a seven-concert sequence of Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas. He also had a memorable appearance at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. Altogether, his recitals throughout the United States have included ten cycles of the complete sequence of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas and a five concert series.
Just as Rangell was reaching his creative peak, tragedy struck in 1991. Chronic nerve and muscle problems in his hands forced Rangell to take a temporary retirement. What followed was a trying period of both physical and mental pain for Rangell as he battled the potential crippling effects of the problems that attacked his hands. Yet this temporary rest period ultimately proved to be a most welcome hiatus for Rangell. The time he spent in recuperation seemed only to have made him a stronger, more determined performer than before.
He made a gradual re-emergence onto the stage again as he continued in his therapy. Because of his condition, Rangell had to make certain changes in the way he played. These technical changes lent themselves to the innovative pianist and he continued to play in this manner even after his hands were completely healed. As his strength began returning, he started slowly increasing the public appearances. Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe made this observation about Rangell. One never thought of him as a colorist; but he used articulation and rhythmic manipulation to suggest color. He still does, but there is a wider spectrum now, and color of course isn’t there for its own sake but as another manifestation of psychology.”
A Recital of Intimate Works, Dorian, 1997.
Bach: The Goldberg Variations, Dorian, 1992.
Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas Vol. 1, Dorian, 1992.
Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas Vol. 2, Dorian, 1992.
The Boston Globe, June 9, 1998.
—Timothy Kevin Perry