Bruno Fontaine – Ragtime {Deluxe 5.1 Edition} (2013/2014) [Qobuz FLAC 5.1 Surround 24bit/96kHz]

Bruno Fontaine – Ragtime {Deluxe 5.1 Edition} (2013/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 5.1 Surround  24 bit/96 kHz | Time –01:19:46 minutes | 4,04 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  – Source: Qobuz | Booklet, Front Cover | © Aparté

The eclectic, multi-talented concert pianist, conductor, arranger, and composer, Bruno Fontaine is difficult to pidgeon-hole. Upon graduating from the Paris Conservatoire, covered in prizes, he soon embarked on a rewarding career that merges his talent in all genres from Johnny Hallyday, to Ute Lemper via Barbara Hendricks. This is the marriage of genres that Aparté propose here, in an album dedicated to Ragtime: 20 compositions by major masters of the genre: Scott Joplin, Tom Turpin, James Scott, Joseph Lamb, Joseph Daly, plus a trip to the great Fats Waller. Fontaine added the famous ‘Golliwog’s Cake-Walk’ by Claude Debussy, ‘Ragtime Parade’ by Erik Satie and finally for the contemporary French touch, he composed two ragtime numbers of his own.

Forget any idea of Joshua Rifkin’s ‘original instrument’ approach to the Ragtime repertoire, much less ticklers of old who plied the trade on disc. French pianist – as distinct from piano player, an appellation that suited Duke Ellington just fine – Bruno Fontaine has crafted this programme of rags into ‘concert pieces’. Already, I suppose, alarm bells are ringing. Just what is a Ragtime concert piece?

Quite often it includes some scrunchy dissonances, or interpolations from the classical repertoire – the last most of all. Is this an expansion, a commentary, a post-modern piece of wit, or is it simply wrong? I don’t feel I should be the judge, more the prosecution for the defence in this respect. In that spirit let’s see what Fontaine deems appropriate.

There’s a Ravelian start to Fats Waller’s Honeysuckle Rose complete, in this busy performance, with An American in Paris quotation. There’s the interpolation of snippets of the Canadian National Anthem into Maple Leaf Rag – you won’t need me to point out the connection but the clue’s in the leaf. Swannee River turns up in Tom Turpin’s The Pan-Am Rag and Schumann’s Träumerei in Joseph Lamb’s American Beauty. By this time the formula, however varied, however sinuously insinuated into the music’s fabric, is beginning to wear just a bit thin. The chordally rich Climax Rag sports a moment from I Can’t Give You Anything But Love but there’s no thematic connection or sense that the idea is being explored for purely musical reasons; it’s a mere import. Its big splashy finish announces that this is not for purists of the genre; these are, indeed, pièces de concert.

Turpin would assuredly have wanted his Ragtime Nightmare taken slower than the Hitchcockian tempo taken by the intrepid Frenchman. Fontaine contributes his own piece, the typographically natty (but linguistically meaningless) OpéRagNight which is not a rag, and Rag, Lag and More Rag which is, I suppose. He does Rachmaninovian things to Waller’s Handful of Keys – from the Second Piano Concerto, if you really want to know. There are also some classical things, a Satie Rag, and a hyphenated Debussy-Fontaine Golliwog’s Cakewalk Variations – Gershwin is co-opted into this piece here too – after Fontaine has already given us unadorned Debussy.

I’m not quite sure who this disc is for. It’s not for purists and it’s not radical enough for revisionists. It’s all a bit too cutesy for me, but I did admire the pianism.

01 – Golliwog’s Cakewalk
02 – Golliwog’s Cakewalk variations
03 – Honeysucme Rose
04 – Maple Leaf Rag
05 – The Pan-Am Rag
06 – The Entertainer
07 – American Beauty
08 – Climax Rag
09 – Heliotrope Bouquet
10 – The Saint Louis Rag
11 – Wall Street Rag
12 – Ragtime Nightmare
13 – Chicken Reel
14 – OpéRagNight
15 – Grace and Beauty
16 – Handful of Keys
17 – Rag, Lag and More Rag
18 – Ragtime Parade
19 – Euphonic Sounds (Bonus Track)
20 – First of May Ragimpro 1 (Bonus Track)
21 – The Cascades (Bonus Track)
22 – First of May Ragimpro 2 (Bonus Track)
23 – The easy winners (Bonus Track)
24 – First of May Ragimpro 3 (Bonus Track)
25 – Great Scott Rag (Bonus Track)

Recorded in April-May 2013 at Hôtel de l’Industrie, Paris.

Bruno Fontaine – piano