Scott Joplin – The Easy Winners & Other Rags – Itzhak Perlman, Andre Previn (2015) [Qobuz 24-96]

Scott Joplin – The Easy Winners & Other Rags – Itzhak Perlman, Andre Previn (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 43:10 minutes | 771 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Digital Booklet | ©  Warner Classics
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, London, 2 & 10 December 1974

This album of ragtimes by Scott Joplin, recorded in 1974, was Itzhak Perlman’s first foray beyond the classical repertory, at least on record. The departure proved a successful one and was to be the first of many other such adventures, which also included jazz with André Previn (volume 24) and Oscar Peterson, recordings of Yiddish folk music (volume 38) and film music. In the tradition of his great predecessors, foremost among them Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifetz, Perlman supplied the arrangement for violin and piano himself, remaining faithful to the composer’s style while exploiting the classical violin’s rich palette of colours. His partnership with André Previn, who accompanied him on the piano, always retained a classical perspective, while still allowing for a measure of stylistic freedom.

As Perlman himself revealed, the ornamentations added by the two performers varied from session to session as the pieces were recorded. Ragtime began life as the preserve of the piano, but in Joplin’s time travelling violinists would often join in with string ensembles known as “Serenaders”, made up of violinists, guitarists, mandolin players and double bassists. They would play ragtime in the street in the towns where their travels took them and happily accepted invitations to perform in people’s homes. Scott Joplin played the guitar and the clarion in addition to being an accomplished pianist, and would probably have been able to perform to some level on the violin, given that his father Giles Joplin had been a violinist while a slave in North Carolina.
Considered in Europe a living form of American art, ragtime was hugely fashionable in the United States for more than twenty years, but its origins prevented its performance in American concert halls during the first decades of the twentieth century. Driven to despair by the rejection of his music, Joplin died of insanity and depression at the age of forty-nine. In the 1970s his works enjoyed a revival thanks to the advocacy of pianists such as Joshua Rifkin, William Bolcom and Max Morath, conductors Gunther Schuller and George Sponhaltz, organist Lee Erwin and harpsichordists E. Power Biggs and William Neil Roberts. Ragtime finally made its mark on concert halls and university auditoriums as well as on the record industry.

Before making this recording Perlman had played his Joplin arrangements in recital, where they had been warmly received. On this disc, the two partners do true justice to the piquancy of Joplin’s music, to its infectious cheerfulness as well as to its darkest bursts of melancholy. As Perlman wrote: “Originally played mostly in saloons and bordellos, ragtime became immortalised through Scott Joplin’s dedication and talent. Listening to Joplin’s own works in their original piano form and in orchestral transcriptions, I became captivated by the composer’s charm and uniquely pungent rhythms. Intriguing too was the pervasive classical influence evidenced in both form and harmonic content. Joplin’s lyrical, often sad qualities suggested the idea of arranging his music for violin and piano. The violin, which naturally displays music’s most soulful qualities, surely would be an apt voice for realising this composer’s very individual spirit. For these recordings, I chose works which represent Joplin in a variety of moods, joyful, sad or meditative. The exuberant qualities of The Ragtime Dance, for example, contrast with the more introspective, solemn character of Solace or Bethena achieved through his innovative use of harmonic progressions and modulations combined with rhythmic pulse and melodic lines … Playing in such a manner is always exciting and adventurous.” –Jean-Michel Molkhou

Tracklist:
Scott Joplin (1867/8–1917)
All tracks arr. Itzhak Perlman
1 The Ragtime Dance 3.13
2 The Easy Winners 3.11
3 Bethena (a concert waltz) 6.36
4 Magnetic Rag 4.50
5 The Strenuous Life (a ragtime two-step) 3.53
6 The Entertainer 4.11
7 Elite Syncopations 3.14
8 Solace (a Mexican serenade) 7.12
9 Pine Apple Rag 3.10
10 Sugar Cane (a ragtime classic two-step) 3.44

Personnel:
Itzhak Perlman, violin
André Previn, piano

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