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Judith Lang ZAIMONT (b.1945)
Bubble-Up Rag (2001) [9:38] 1
Reflective Rag (1974) [3:33] 2
Reflective Rag (1974) [4:03] 3
Judy’s Rag (1974) [3:19] 2
Lazy Beguine (2007) [4:11] 3
Hesitation Rag (1998) [5:46] 4
Snazzy Sonata: An Entertainment for Two (1972) [18:17] 5
Reflective Rag (1974) [3:41] 6
Serenade (2006) [5:07] 2
1 Immanuel Davis (flute), Nanette Kaplan Solomon (piano); 2 Judith L. Zaimont (piano); 3 The American Ragtime Ensemble: Nick Descala (clarinet), Leonard Ott (trumpet), David Reffkin (violin), Wieslaw Pogorzelski (viola), Marcie Brown (cello), Richard Worn (bass), Alexis Alrich (piano) / David Reffkin; 4 Joanne Polk (piano); 5 Doris L. Kosloff, Judith L. Zaimont (piano); 6 Elizabeth Owens (flute), Judith L. Zaimont (piano)
rec. dates and locations not given.
MSR MS1238 [57:35]

 


Classical composers have long drawn on the language of ragtime. Examples that come to mind include Satie’s ‘Le Piccadilly’; Debussy’s ‘General Lavine’, ‘Minstrels’, ‘Le petit nègre’ and ‘Golliwog’s Cakewalk’; Stravinsky’s ‘Piano- Rag-Music’; Hindemith’s ‘Ragtime’ in his Suite of 1922 and Milhaud’s ‘Trois Rags Caprices’ of the same year; Alexandre Tansman’s ‘Sonatine Transatlantique’ and Lothar Perl’s ‘Syncopated impressions’. Amongst American composers, William Albright’s rag-inspired works for organ are particularly striking, as are the rags of William Bolcom. Another American composer who has been steadily building up a catalogue of rag-influenced pieces is Judith Lang Zaimont. Zaimont is one of those talented American composers, mildly eclectic stylistically, highly competent, who attract relatively little attention beyond America. Her body of work includes symphonies and operas, a body of songs, a range of works for a variety of chamber ensembles and a fair output for solo piano.

In her contribution to the booklet notes which accompany this CD, Zaimont writes Side by side with more elaborate concert works, I’ve been composing rag-based pieces for more than three decades. And when these two musical domains continually intersect in my imagination, the manner of each mutually enriches the other, generating concert-framed works that tap into infectious ‘ragged-time’ as deep-down, or overt, source. Very often elaborated in their forms, these concert works could be thought of as wholly American counterparts to such music as Chopin’s polonaises and mazurkas, similarly derived from national dance forms”.

That gets to the heart of the matter and is a good guide to what the listener will find on this thoroughly enjoyable CD. Some of the compositions are more or less straight rags, continuations, as much as appropriations, of the original idiom. There isn’t too much in ‘Judy’s Rag’ - well played by the composer, on a piano that sounds as if it has had better days - that would raise the eyebrows of ragtime masters such as Joseph F. Lamb or Scott Joplin. Elsewhere Zaimont’s wanders further away from ‘pure’ ragtime. Some of the most striking music is to be heard in ‘Bubble-Up Rag’, a work of considerable complexity and length, which shifts in and out of ragtime rhythms and which explores a harmonic language that would, indeed, have startled the ragtime pioneers. It gets an excellent, compelling performance from Immanuel Davis and Nanette Kaplan Solomon. ‘Serenade’ slows down the tempo to the point where resemblances to the methods of ragtime (thought they are there) become less important than the apparent differences. The result is an intriguing piece of real, if mysterious, charm. The analogy with Chopin seems particularly pertinent here.

The two piano suite, ‘Snazzy Sonata’, works its way through a whole chronological catalogue of American ‘dance’ musics – it begins with ‘Moderate Two-Step’, in which echoes of ragtime are clear; continues with ‘Lazy Beguine’, and a ‘Bebop Scherzo’ before closing with a ‘Grande Valse Brillante’ which is ‘American’, rather than Viennese, insofar as it is redolent of the Broadway musical stage (and is complete with some witty musical allusions).

The pieces played in David Reffkin’s arrangements for a larger group, though they are attractive enough, lack the rhythmic incisiveness and drive of the other pieces/versions heard here.

Judith Lang Zaimont’s treatment of ragtime is characterised by respect and affection, by ease and familiarity and by an inventiveness which, for all its musical sophistication, is never in danger of overwhelming the structures and language of its source idiom. The results are delightfully entertaining.

Glyn Pursglove

 

 


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