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5.0 out of 5 stars The best Scott Joplin piano rags recording, bar none
I fell in love with this recording as an LP, and still love it as a CD. It is the best recording of Scott Joplin's piano rags I have ever heard. Following the direction of the composer (usually, "NOTE: Do not play this piece fast. It is never right to play Ragtime fast."), Rifkin keeps the tempos where they should be - "The Entertainer" on this...
Published on Jan. 6 2004 by David M. Fox

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Wooden
Rifkin plays ragtime, in my opinion, for people who don't get ragtime. It's good that he doesn't fall into the trap of playing Joplin at super high speeds so it sounds like the background to a Chaplin movie-- Joplin wanted to be regarded as a serious composer, seperate from the tin pan alley hacks who were biting his style and getting rich off third and fourth rate mass...
Published on June 12 2001 by love_jones


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5.0 out of 5 stars The best Scott Joplin piano rags recording, bar none, Jan. 6 2004
By 
David M. Fox (Port Orchard, WA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 (Audio CD)
I fell in love with this recording as an LP, and still love it as a CD. It is the best recording of Scott Joplin's piano rags I have ever heard. Following the direction of the composer (usually, "NOTE: Do not play this piece fast. It is never right to play Ragtime fast."), Rifkin keeps the tempos where they should be - "The Entertainer" on this album will almost make you cry, so perfect is the tempo to bring out the sheer beauty of the piece. Rifkin's use of a proper instrument (a 9' concert grand piano) and his 99.9% attention to playing the pieces precisely as written, coupled with his virtuosity, make this the premier recording of Scott Joplin's masterpieces. Rifkin does take some very minor liberties in a few of the pieces, but they are tasteful and do not detract from the pieces in question. All other Joplin recordings I have heard contain far more, less tasteful embellishments. Nit-picking this CD for the small liberties taken by Rifkin is to overlook the enormous liberties taken by everyone else and misses the point. You can't find a better Joplin recording than this CD.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, Jan. 1 2004
By 
R. Albin (Ann Arbor, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 (Audio CD)
This CD is a selection of pieces from three albums made by Rifkin over 25 years ago. These are probably Joplin's best pieces and Rifkin's playing is excellent. In several, the music and Rifkin's musicianship are simply wonderful. The defect of these recordings is that the sound quality is mediocre. A number of tracks are 'hissy.' This is not surprising as these albums were originally issued on the bargain Nonesuch label.
Joplin was clearly a tremendously talented individual with a unique voice. His relatively early death, from tertiary syphlis, may have deprived us of much excellent and distinctly American music.
A final comment on the Nonesuch label. Older listeners will recall Nonesuch as an excellent label. Run by people with adventurous and discriminating taste, Nonesuch issued a wide variety of modestly priced recordings including a lot of early music, non-western music, and contemporary serious music. These recordings often lacked the production qualities of higher end labels but the choice of music and artists was generally excellent. This set of Joplin recordings, which were probably Nonesuch's best-seller, is typical of Nonesuch offerings.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The King of Scott Joplin recordings!, Sept. 18 2003
By 
Mark Porter (Yokosuka, Japan) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 (Audio CD)
Dear Lovers of Joplin Rags,
You probably are already familiar with the great Nonesuch
LPs by Joshua Rifkin of various of Scott Joplin's rags.
But if for some strange reason you haven't heard Joshua
Rifkin's Joplin CD, then, well, if you like superb piano
playing, get your rears in gear and get hold of this CD!
Ya get me? I simply can't imagine the Joplin rags played
any better than Rifkin does here. Period. If, as I have,
you have tried to emulate the perfection of poise, beauty,
grace, nobility, and cohesiveness of Rifkin's playing, you
undoubtedly have--as I have!--thrown up your hands in
despair! I'm just glad that Joshua Rifkin turned his hands
to the Joplin rags, as I find him the most completely
satisfying performer of this music. I have listened to
the Nonesuch LPs and then the CD version for years, and I have never tired of these ever-fresh performances. I still can't
imagine how Rifkin managed to record these perfectly poised
performances, one perfect take after another! I know
this sounds like I'm overdoing it, but I mean it!
I just wish that "Rose Leaf Rag" had been included on the CD
as it's one of my very favorites, and was on the Nonesuch LPs,
back when LPs were being made!
Further, I fervently wish that someday Mr. Rifkin will read
these reviews and consider making another CD of classic rags--
of other Joplin rags, or those of James Scott, Joseph Lamb,
and others.
By the way, if you can get Mr. Rifkin's CD "Rags and Tangos,"
you're in for another tremendous treat! It's another fantastic
recording, with some James Scott and Joseph Lamb rags, along
with a gorgeous variety of Ernesto Nazareth tangos--another
five-star recording! If you aren't familiar with the Nazareth
tangos, you are really in for a special treat here!
Dear Mr. Rifkin,
Please-please-please make some more piano recordings!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive interpretation!, July 14 2002
By 
Ryan Richards "reb77" (Midland, MI United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 (Audio CD)
I don't know what I can say about this CD that hasn't already been said, but it's so good that I'll try to add my own two cents. Although he's primarily a Baroque music scholar, Joshua Rifkin (however unintentionally) pretty much spearheaded the Joplin revival in the '70s, and this CD reveals that even after thirty-plus years his recordings are still the best. The emotional content on this CD is incredible not only for its depth, but for its variances; Rifkin subtly varies his playing style strain by strain, and in some cases even measure by measure, to capture the ever-changing moods of each rag. Many performers of Joplin play each piece with the same style and approach throughout, resulting in an emotionally flat experience that sounds like "a bunch of saloon music." Rifkin, conversely, obviously has a keen understanding of what feeling each rag is trying to convey, resulting in a CD that gives us a fresh, new sound with each track while displaying the subtle brilliance and Classical influence of Joplin's music as a whole. Rifkin's best attribute by far, however, is his understanding of Joplin's "Prime Directive" regarding his pieces: "It is never right to play 'ragtime' fast." Unlike other Joplin performers, who seem to use Joplin's works more as flashy showpieces than as music of any real depth, Rifkin doesn't let his ego get in the way of what the music is trying to convey. He's experienced enough to restrain his tempi and play each work on this CD in a relaxed, flowing manner, providing us a chance to truly hear and appreciate the individual notes and rhythms that make up each rag while still maintaining the music's emotional power and vivacity. It certainly doesn't hurt that the sound quality of this CD is rich and full-bodied, too, as opposed to many recordings I've heard in which the piano sounded excessively bright, very tinny and confined, or monotonous and flat (or any combination of these characteristics). The bottom line is that Rifkin's experience and research into the proper performance of Joplin's music shine through on this CD, leaving us with music that is in no hurry to finish itself, but takes its time and saunters easily to the end, displaying a remarkable range of dynamics, emotions and amazing musical architecture on the way--all recorded in crystal-clear sound. While other Joplin CDs may be fun to listen to, this is the one that will not only become THE staple of your Joplin library, it will reveal the amazing technique and artistry behind Joplin's composition, providing a fascinating look into a composer who was (until Rifkin's efforts) unfortunately unknown.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Joplin's genius shines through, Feb. 14 2002
This review is from: Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 (Audio CD)
I enjoy music that gives a sense of gliding and lightness. Joplin's "Fig Leaf Rag", alone to my knowledge of music so far, creates a dreamlike feeling of zero gravity. The smoothly intricate complexity of the piece, enhanced by Joplin's deft chromaticism, gives me the feeling that the slightest footstep is enough to ascend to the acrobatic heights of an old concert hall.
Rifkin's fresh, effortless "Entertainer" is pure pleasure in contrast to the clichéd or (ugh!) orchestral versions that have beaten the piece into the ground over the decades.
Before the war, the resigned, mature melancholy of "Solace" made me imagine New York scenes of Joplin's time. It obviously has more meaning now for remembrance and rebuilding in America and Afghanistan, where only one piano (disguised as furniture) survived the Taliban.
From the exuberance of "Maple Leaf" to the serene "Weeping Willow", Joplin's originality and Rifkin's unhurried performance make this CD well worth owning. I only wish I could hear "The Cascades" played as a nocturne someday--the version here came on a bit too strong for my taste.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good recording, but still stands second best, Sept. 13 2001
By 
Chris (Des Moines, IA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 (Audio CD)
This album is a very good one indeed. And yes, it's true that no one plays Joplin's rags better then Joshua Rifkin.....except one. Her name, Ann Charters. Ann Charters successfully created and recorded the album "A Joplin Bouquet", in 1958 on a somewhat out of tune piano. A lot of people might think because the piano was twangy that it made the music sound bad. Actually, it really makes the music come more alive. Hearing her recording is like actually being transformed back to the days when Joplin was alive. In 1972, Ann Charters created a second album called "The Genius Of Scott Joplin", using the same piano and studio, but with the piano completely tuned. It didn't have the same nastolgic sound as her earlier recording, but it still held a great quality of sound. One of the songs she did was the Great Crush Collision. The way she plays it, sounds just like two trains coming down the track and colliding into each other. Another song she did was the Something Doing, in which she incorporated running bass passages in the left hand, just like Joplin had done on his piano roll. Another neat thing about Ann's recordings are that in A Joplin Bouquet, she played the Sycamore in Bb, Eb instead of G, C, which to me, personally sounds better. In fact, I compare her version of the Sycamore with her version of the Nonpareil (on her second album, The Genius Of Scott Joplin), and they sound almost the same in theme and key. Yes, indeed Joshua Rifkin and Ann Charters both played Joplin's music as he intended it to be played. But each one added their own touch to the music, making it unique to themselves. Rifkin is tough to beat, but I give the 5 star to Ann Charters. Incidently, I noticed that Ann's albums are not available on amazon.com, but you can obtain a copy of the compiled album, The Genius Of Scott Joplin, which contains A Joplin Bouquet, The Genuis Of Scott Joplin, and other rags that Joplin wrote that she played at cdnow.com
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2.0 out of 5 stars Wooden, June 12 2001
By 
"love_jones" (I WISH I WAS IN THE LAND OF COTTON HAHA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 (Audio CD)
Rifkin plays ragtime, in my opinion, for people who don't get ragtime. It's good that he doesn't fall into the trap of playing Joplin at super high speeds so it sounds like the background to a Chaplin movie-- Joplin wanted to be regarded as a serious composer, seperate from the tin pan alley hacks who were biting his style and getting rich off third and fourth rate mass produced garbage. Like most geniuses, Joplin was more or less overlooked at the time and died peniless in 1917. However, Rifkin's performance is soulless. Ragtime is about America-- it's about moving from the countryside to the big city and it's about the combination of folk roots with classical composition. Rifkin doesn't really capture this. His performances are too somber. A much greater interpreter is Max Morath, who perfectly captures the hustle and bustle of St. Louis or Sedalia with his performances. You will find no review, however, of his "Max Morath plays the best of Scott Joplin and Other Rag Classics" here. This is unforgivable. Do yourself a favor: Stop listening to Joplin as if it's Bach. It's not. It's better. Ragtime is American, not European. Go get a Morath album and you'll see what I'm talking about.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece - same as it ever was!, March 28 2001
By 
Michael S. Goldfarb (Verplanck, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 (Audio CD)
Ever since I first heard Joshua Rifkin's first LP of the Scott Joplin rags (when searching for music to play along with Super 8 silent comedies back in the early 70s), I have been in love with these recordings.
Rifkin's sensitive playing finds a dignity and variety of moods in these rags, waltzes, senerades, dances, etc., that is simply astonishing. This music is the link between romantic classical music and early jazz, and it combines some of the finest elements of both. Having a classicly trained musician perform it (vs. someone from the stride or barrelhouse - much less honkytonk! - school) reveals much of the subtle beauty and invention in these compositions...
Once you've heard this, both the "fingerbreaker" high-speed approach to ragtime that preceded this, and the Hamlisch-ized popularization of this music that came later, fade into insignificance!
And having nearly all of the 3 original LPs on a single CD is fantastic. My ONLY complaint is that the recordings themselves, particularly the first group from 1970, seem somewhat flat and lacking in the rich tone and dynamics that we expect nowadays. No matter, these performances are wonderful. No other recordings of Joplin come close - do yourself a favor and grab this one!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best interpretation of Joplin's music yet!, July 7 2000
This review is from: Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 (Audio CD)
I've always been a big fan of ragtime, and have many records and CD's in my collection. This has always been my favorite recording of Scott Joplin. Rifkin plays clearly and smoothly when called for, and the dynamics make each piece a delight to hear. Other recordings I've heard sound "choppy" or rushed compared to this disc; Joplin himself stated that his pieces were not to be played fast. Other recordings I've heard have way too much pedal, making them "muddy." This one is perfect... a little pedal at the right time, but never too much. The large-room auditorium sound of this recording only adds to its charm: it obviously wasn't recorded in a small, dampened studio; even so, each note is distinct. In addition, Rifkin is quite faithful to the original score. Other performers will stick in too many embellishments so that the music is no longer as Joplin wrote it. Rifkin sprinkles a few of his own grace notes or other ornaments occasionally, but they are always done with such taste that they never detract from the listener's enjoyment. If you have just one Scott Joplin recording in your collection, make it this one. Even if you own other collections of Scott Joplin's recordings, get this one. It's the best of them all!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ragtime revealed, Sept. 4 2000
This review is from: Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 (Audio CD)
By observing Scott Joplin's tempos, dynamics, pedal markings and various warnings to the performer like "DO NOT PLAY THIS PIECE FAST! IT IS NEVER RIGHT TO PLAY RAGTIME FAST!" and "DON'T FAKE!", Joshua Rifkin's performance are possibly the closest to what the composer had in mind.
Play the Maple Leaf Rag on this CD to anyone and watch a broad smile break out as Rifkin launches into that oh-so-familiar second strain. Hear how the Gladiolus Rag literally blooms from a simple opening into all of its fistful-of-notes glory. And finally, hear Joplin sum up the few successes and many tragedies of his life in the haunting Magnetic Rag, with its many wanderings into the most unlikely keys and its ending suggestive of a candle slowly burning itself out.
Of all the recordings of Scott Joplin that came out during the Ragtime mania of the 1970s, this is the one that every serious listener cherishes and returns to, time after time.
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Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3
Joplin Piano Rags Vol. 1-3 by Joshua Rifkin (Audio CD - 1989)
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