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News & Reviews
- Thursday, January 13, 2011
Joshua Rifkin to Perform at New York's (Le) Poisson Rouge for 40th Anniversary of Nonesuch Joplin "Piano Rags" Album
Four decades ago, Nonesuch Records released Joshua Rifkin's recordings of Scott Joplin's Piano Rags that went on to ignite a national passion for ragtime jazz and "created, almost alone, the Scott Joplin revival," as New York magazine wrote. On January 30, Rifkin will make his debut at New York's (Le) Poisson Rouge performing the music of Joplin and J.S. Bach in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the album.
- Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The Baroque Beatles Book, the 1965 favorite featuring Baroque-style arrangements of some of the Beatles' biggest hits by musicologist Joshua Rifkin, was reissued on CD for the first time just last month. "What a kick to have this delightful release from 1965 at hand again on CD," raves Audiophile Audition in a five-star review. Rifkin "did a terrific job of it which still is most enjoyable to hear ... Bravo Rifkin, Nonesuch and all concerned!"
About this Album
Musicologist-conductor-pianist Joshua Rifkin’s The Baroque Beatles Book is a milestone from the early days of Nonesuch Records. It began as a marketing concept-cum-youthful prank: How about writing Baroque-era arrangements of the Fab Four’s Top 40 hits, as if Lennon & McCartney were contemporaries of Bach & Handel? Beatlemania and the Baroque were both in fashion with their respective audiences, and the disc became a crossover hit at the height of the 1965 holiday season. But The Baroque Beatles Book was no mere novelty item; over the years it has gained downright legendary status among Beatles fans and classical enthusiasts alike. Newsweek declared the collection “inspired”; the Boston Globe called it “brilliant.”
The 21-year-old Rifkin was fresh out of Juilliard and a stint in the Even Dozen Jug Band, a Greenwich Village folk combo that boasted David Grisman, John Sebastian, and Geoff and Maria Muldaur as members. He was working in the Nonesuch office, helping to repackage the European classical releases that were the label’s stock in trade at the time, when Nonesuch founder Jac Holzman gave him the project and a very tight deadline—plus the wherewithal to hire his favorite freelance classical players. Mark Abrahamson (Judy Collins, Paul Butterfield Blues Band) would produce, with Paul Rothchild (Phil Ochs, The Doors) assisting.
As Rifkin recounts in the liner notes he contributed to this new edition, “With the holiday season looming, we managed to do everything—composing, recording, editing, mastering, packaging—in five mad weeks. I wrote music 10 to 18 hours a day, day in and day out. As I got scores ready, a wonderful staff of copyists picked them up pretty much the minute they left my hands and copied out parts ... I had learned, in my studies, about how Bach and Handel had turned out oratorios or operas at breakneck pace. Now I found myself living it.”
Rifkin would later garner worldwide recognition as the catalyst for the ragtime revival with his best-selling Nonesuch recordings of Scott Joplin’s works. Of course, the Beatles were doing well enough in 1965 without Rifkin’s intercession, but his arrangements for The Baroque Beatles Book perhaps helped facilitate the growing creative dialogue between popular and more high-minded culture, something the Beatles themselves would engage in as the matured. And Rifkin’s spur-of-the-moment inspiration has proven to be just as much fun 40 years later as the pop songs upon which it is based.
Baroque Ensemble of the Merseyside Kammermusikgesellschaft
Joshua Rifkin, conductor
Murray the Klavierkitzler (6)
Harold Brienes, Helpentenor (7-10)
The Canby Singers, Edward Tatnall Canby, director (7-10)
Produced by Mark Abramson
Assisted by Paul Rothchild
Production Supervisor: Jac Holzman
Reissue prepared by Arthur Moorhead
Remastered by Robert C. Ludwig at Gateway Mastering, Portland, Maine, January 2009
All songs written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Cover art: Roger Hane
Original cover design: William S. Harvey
Reissue design by Kasia Ozmin at togetherwecreate