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Bach 4 Kids / Andrew Rangell

Release Date: 10/04/2019
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30111
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach Performer:  Andrew Rangell

"Bach 4 Kids" is a recital containing 19 vivid and varied keyboard selections by Johann Sebastian Bach. The pieces are mostly short, and the program of modest size, both scaled, one might say, to the attention span of a child. Yet Bach’s genius provides, in this half hour, a remarkable concentration of substance and of detail – inviting, and requiring, repeated listening.

Album Credits:
Sinfonia No. 4 in D Minor, BWV 790 recorded December 20 – 21, 2018
at the Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts.
All other tracks previously released.
Executive Producer: Jon Feidner
Editing/Mastering: Brad Michel

Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Read more Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Production Assistant: Renée Oakford
Cover illustration: Andrew Rangell
Back Cover illustration: Robert Gale
Photo of Andrew Rangell: Bill Fried

Pianist Andrew Rangell has been doing unconventional projects for a long time (book him for the Ives "Concord" Sonata sometime and see if he'll whistle the optional flute part). He is not the first pianist to record an album for children, but he may be the first to use his name in nickname form (Andy Rangell) as a part thereof. The album accompanies a children's cartoon, included here on DVD, which deals with a pair of blue pajamas. The cartoon is drawn and narrated by Rangell himself, also probably a first, and is itself accompanied by Bach's music, again played by Rangell. This is worthwhile in itself. It used to be that young people got a wide, if not systematic, exposure to classical music through cartoons, and the idea is worth reviving. As for the Bach 4 Kids album itself, Rangell plays it straight. The music isn't simplified in any way, but he does offer small chunks and single movements, rather than multi-movement structures. They include a lot of the famous tunes from Bach's instrumental music. Rangell favors upbeat pieces, and he cultivates a direct style appropriate to the occasion. Sample the Allegro from the Italian Concerto, BWV 971. Will it appeal to kids? Try it out on some in your circle; the probable answer is yes.

-- AllMusic Guide

May I say at the outset that this is a very weird recording? That’s not completely bad thing but I have more questions coming out than I did going in. The album’s title is “Bach 4 Kids”; it is mostly dance movements and selections from the Inventions and Sinfonias. Andrew (masquerading as “Andy” for the album credit) Rangell’s playing is exuberant, sometimes harsh as in the accent-heavy gigue from French Suite 5. So my question: is he performing this way to keep kids’ interest up? Is he taking a cue from his own childhood? (Many of the performances remind me of what a very precocious child would do with Bach.)

Even if one or both hypotheses are true, what accounts for the fascinating performances like the slow, luminous, and expressively free Sinfonia in D minor and (especially) A minor? I don’t have an answer, but I would say that it is worth purchasing for the Italian Concerto, Aria from the Goldberg Variations, and a few others). A DVD includes Rangell’s own story, “The Story of Peter Pajamas”, with a soundtrack derived from the recording. A puzzle, but hardly an unpleasant one.

-- American Record Guide Read less