Ragtime Classics 1901-1919
RAGTIME CLASSICS 1901–1919 • Brian Dykstra (pn) • CENTAUR 3340 (68:00)
JOPLIN Gladiolus Rag. The Chrysanthemum—An Afro-American Intermezzo. Bethena—A Concert Waltz. Peacherine Rag. Solace—A Mexican Seranade. The Entertainer. LAMB Top Liner Rag. SCOTT Grace and Beauty. TURPIN The St. Louis Rag. JOPLIN/HAYDEN Sun Flower Slow Drag. WOODS Slippery Elm Rag. COOKE Blame It on the Blues. JOHNSON Dill Pickles. AUFDERHEIDE The Thriller!
I interviewed pianist/composer Brian Dykstra in Fanfare 35:6, at which time two CDs featuring his concert rags were very favorably received by Lynn René Bayley, Barry Brenesal, and yours truly. This time around, he’s chosen to bring us some of his favorite classic rags rather than his own novel creations. These include such Joplin staples as The Entertainer, Solace, Peacherine Rag, Gladiolus Rag, and Bethena—A Concert Waltz . The program also features works by composers whom fame has passed by, such as Charles L. Cooke, Charles L. Johnson, and May Aufderheide (according to Dykstra one of many women ragtime composers). Cooke’s catchy Blame it on the Blues sounds quite happy for a song with “blues” in the title and Johnson’s Dill Pickles is more likely to make you caper with frolicsome abandon than pucker you lips with vinegar. Apparently it owes its comical name to chance: Johnson, who worked for the Carl Hoffman Music Company, was stuck for a title when he noticed a fellow employee carrying a box of dill pickles, eh voilà! Aufderheide’s The Thriller! is full of sass and bounce: Dykstra doesn’t hold back on the dynamics in the “thrilling” last measures. There are also pieces by the “other” famous ragtime composers, James Scott and Joseph Lamb. Lamb’s Ragtime Nightingale ’s opening left-hand pattern reminds Dykstra of Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude but, title to the contrary, he doesn’t feel that the music contains any particularly bird-like figurations, so he’s added a lengthy trill to make amends. Looked at from Lamb’s perspective, it’s possible that the composer thought that some of the lighter, “tinkly” bits preceding the trill might suggest the nightingale’s song.
Dykstra’s tempos are sometimes faster than those to which I’ve grown accustomed. I’ve loved Solace since I heard it in The Sting , played, I believe, by Marvin Hamlisch. His languid, dreamy performance made the most of the tango rhythm and brought out more of the music’s wistful melancholy. I prefer his version to Dykstra’s more straight-ahead approach, but it’s interesting to hear a contrasting point of view. Joshua Rifkin (you can hear him on YouTube if you don’t have the original recording to hand) is likewise on the slow side (sometimes too slow for my taste). Of course, Rifkin’s landmark recordings were notable for their slow tempos, which honored Joplin’s oft-quoted advice to “Never play ragtime fast at any time.” A comparison of the two pianists in The Entertainer is also revealing, with Rifkin substantially slower than Dykstra. Rifkin, of course, enjoys iconic status as one of the prime movers of the ragtime revival of the 1960s, but there’s a lot to be said for Dykstra’s spritely playing. Also, he’s either added substantial variants of his own or is playing from an edition I haven’t encountered: This alone makes him worth hearing. Add in that this enjoyable program is garnished with rarities to whet a connoisseur’s palate and it’s plain that it deserves a place in any ragtime collection.
FANFARE: Robert Schulslaper
Catalog Number: CRC3340
Label: Centaur Records
Composer: ["Charles "Doc" Cooke, Charles L. Johnson, H.C. Woods, James Scott, Joseph Lamb, May Aufderheide, Scott Joplin, Tom Turpin"]
Performer: Brian Dykstra