Lancashire Times
Weekend Edition
Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
6:50 AM 12th June 2022

Classical Music Album: William Bolcom The Complete Rags

William Bolcom The Complete Rags

Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)

Eubie’s Luckey Day; Epithalamium; Three Popular Rags – 2 Tabby Cat Walk; Knockout ‘A Rag’; Rag-Tango; The Garden of Eden ( Old Adam,The Eternal Feminine, The Serpent’s Kiss, Through Eden’s Gates); California Porcupine Rag; The Gardenia; The Brooklyn Dodge; Contentment; Three Ghost Rags (Graceful Ghost Rag, The Poltergeist, Dream Shadows); Raggin Rudi; Epitaph for Louis Chauvin; Seabiscuits Rag; Estela ‘Rag Latino’; Fields of Flowers; Incineratorag; Knight Hubert; Lost Lady Rag; Glad Rag; Last Rag; Brass Knuckles (written in collaboration with William Albright)

Hyperion CDA68391/2
Available as an MP3, iTunes, CD or FLAC and ALAC formats

Marc-André Hamelin provides an opportunity to momentarily forget the woes of the world with a fun-filled, entertaining album celebrating the high-spirited world of ragtime.

Through syncopated rhythms that dominated popular American culture at the end of the 19th century along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, he plays William Bolcom’s series of rags dating from his first, Glad Rag in 1967, to perhaps his last in 2015.

One could be in a cinema watching the antics of the Keystone Cops or a romantic scene, being interpreted by a lone pianist accompanying the film; perhaps dancing a Charleston or tango.

With a nod to the master of the genre, Scott Joplin, Bolcom creates different moods, of which, the central one, is humour.

The different pieces have a voice which Hamelin communicates brilliantly through his virtuosic playing. He manages the compositional technicalities with panache never failing to convey the message. Whether the wonderful pauses in Tabby Cat Walk, the fast moving Poltergeist or Brooklyn Dodge, written in the mould of the great stride pianist James P Johnson, Hamelin keeps the rhythmic pace alive.

Hamelin’s proficiency at the piano and Bolcom’s brilliance as a composer fuse together to provide a disc with different emotions the primary one, joy, creating a smile. Hamelin’s rhythmic energy is infectious.

In the notes, Bolcom writes that he is convinced that Contentment written in 2015 and dedicated to Joan Morris, who has brought so much joy and contentment for nearly fifty years of songs and marriage, will be his last rag. Let’s hope not.

Hamelin dazzles and sparkles, never more so than in the final rag Brass Knuckles, written with William Albright. It is dotted with markings like ‘brutal’ and ‘loutish' and one just wants to shout "play it all again" at the end.