|1. Original Rags|
|2. Fig Leaf Rag|
|3. Maple Leaf Rag|
|5. The Entertainer|
|7. Elite Syncopations|
|8. Country Club|
|9. Sugar Cane|
|11. The Ragime Dance|
|13. Serchlight Rag|
|14. Euphonic Sounds|
|15. Gladiolus Rag|
|16. Magnetic Rag|
William Bolcom is my kind of musician: a fine composer of varied music, and a terrific pop and ragtime pianist. Unlike many contemporary players, Bolcom always heeds Joplin's directive never to play ragtime fast. He captures the cakewalk rhythm of Joplin's rags, and plays the gorgeous waltz Bethena as beautifully as you'll ever hear it. This is an excellent selection of Joplin's pieces without a second-rate work in the bunch, beautifully recorded in stylistically aware performances. The intelligent annotations give you a good sense of Joplin's accomplishment and place in American music. This is probably the best single-disc Joplin collection on the market. --Leslie Gerber
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I question the speed of several pieces--"Searchlight Rag" is an example. Yes, Scott Joplin famously wrote "It is never right to play `rag-time' fast" in his note to "Leola," but does that mean it has to be draggy? Maybe the worst example is the waltz "Bethena." Waltzes were popular dances at the turn of the century--e.g., "The Band Played On"--but no one could dance to the exaggerated slowdowns at the ends and even in the middle of sections of "Bethena" as Bolcom plays it. And that's too bad, because his phrasing is mostly right on. But the dance character is lost, so it comes across as a tone poem in the style of Chopin instead of the great American waltz.
Still, this is with Joshua Rifkin's album one of the best recordings of Scott Joplin's piano music. It is chronologically organized, starting with "Original Rags" in the late 1800s and finishing with Joplin's last published rag, "Magnetic," of 1912.
Bolcom is a better pianist than Rifkin for this musical style, and Bolcom also established himself as a ragtime composer--I recommend his "Graceful Ghost" rag which fuses sophisticated chromatic broadway harmony with genuine ragtime character.
Listen to one the interpretations on this record and then the same piece by another performer and you'll be amazed at how much more Bolcom is doing with the music, changing tempo, rubato, phrasing. Bolcom plays "not too fast," but he plays faster than many at times. IMO, there isn't one "right" way to play Joplin, but I much prefer this pianistic style to either something too slow or piano-roll jaunty.
This album has been sitting on my computer for ten years or so, and I keep coming back to it. Highly recommended.
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