Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Piano Rags and other pieces
Phillip Dyson (piano)
rec Henry Wood Hall, Dec 1998
ASV WHITE LINE CD WHL 2120 [72.51]
 Upper Midprice

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.

Rob Barnett

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