SCOTT JOPLIN (1868-1917)
Piano Rags and other
rec Henry Wood Hall, Dec
ASV WHITE LINE
CD WHL 2120
In the interpretation of Joplin a confident devil-may-care style is crucial.
Phillip Dyson has this in spades.
Dyson has always leaned towards the more accessible (which is not to say,
less imaginative) side. His Mayerl and Arnold are known and admirable. He
has not neglected the more 'serious' repertoire: for example his advocacy
of the John Ireland Piano Concerto and Malcolm Arnold John Field Fantasy
- both in concert - is well known.
There was a certain inevitability about Dyson tackling Joplin. And that it
should be under ASV's capacious and technically savvy wing is also no surprise.
His Entertainer (1902) is suave, accented with hesitations and dynamic
nuance. Elite Syncopations and Paragon Rag are jumpy honky-tonk
pieces. Solace sidles along in a Debussian 'cakewalk'. Maple Leaf
Rag has a 'spiffing' Beethovenian crunch and a surprising kinship with
Peter Warlock's 'codpieces'. The Great Crush Collision emulates a
Beethovenian march with a Turkish accent. Weeping Willow suggests
the exaggerated and unsteady sway of Mae West in a Force 10. Pineapple
Rag is half knowing, half sly. Heliotrope Bouquet languishes
delectably in Delian repose. Joplin's opera Treemonisha was recorded
by DG in 1970s. The three Treemonisha pieces are variously: melodramatic,
a real slow oily snake and in the Prelude to Act III an essay in Beethoven's
'moonlight'. In the home straight comes some of the big name pieces:
Magnetic Rag, Easy Winners which seems now to sum up Hollywood's
1920s and Chrysanthemum.
This is all done with a smile and a wink. Ragtime can be too much of a good
thing. After all, the pieces are to a formula. It is to Phillip Dyson's credit
that they are carried off with a dapper but sensitive aplomb.