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William Appling Plays Scott Joplin And J.S. Bach

Joplin / Bach / Appling
Release Date: 01/12/2010 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1163  
Composer:  Scott JoplinJohann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  William Appling
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"The late pianist William Appling's recording of music by Scott Joplin and J.S. Bach includes seven compositions by Joplin (five rags and two waltzes) and two major works by Bach (the Italian Concerto and the B-flat Major Partita). Focusing during his final years on the music of Joplin, Appling discovered many similarities between his works and those of Bach, and he felt that, while always a “popular” composer with audiences, Joplin’s works never received the respect they deserved as brilliant musical compositions. He believed that presenting the music of Joplin and Bach side by side would help listeners to appreciate how Joplin's works held their own with one of the great classical masters.

William Appling's career as a
Read more pianist, while distinguished, was inevitably secondary to his work as a conductor and educator, but during his career he performed frequently throughout the United States. His solo recital debut took place at New York City’s Town Hall in 1964 and he also performed at Severance Hall, the Brooklyn Museum and many other venues. He gave concerto performances with, among others, the Cleveland Orchestra, played under the batons of conductors including Robert Shaw, Darius Milhaud and Louis Lane, and for many years performed in joint recital with the renowned tenor Seth McCoy.

William Appling Plays Scott Joplin and J.S. Bach will be succeeded by his recordings of the complete Joplin piano works, the final recorded legacy of this remarkable American musician."

-- William Appling Singers & Orchestra

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Performances marked by a stately, relaxed approach that bespeaks great affection and an almost wonderingly, lingering appreciation.

William Appling, ‘conductor, pianist and educator’, died in August 2008. He was a teacher at Western Reserve Academy in Ohio and as a performer was keen to explore contemporary American music. A booklet photograph shows him performing Rhapsody in Blue with Robert Shaw in 1962. His great love however remained Bach, and his decision to couple two such pieces with a selection by Scott Joplin was motored by his desire to promote the latter’s compositions, for which he felt a personal sense of identification.

Appling made this series of recordings toward the latter end of his long, twelve year fight with cancer. He’d been unable to pedal since 1996, after a hospital accident. The resultant performances of Joplin’s music certainly take to heart the composer’s stated desire never to take his music quickly. In fact they occupy a wholly different stance from those of, say, the composer-performer William Albright, whose ‘complete works’ three disc set has just been reissued by Nimbus. They also diverge strongly from the celebrated though controversial recordings of Joshua Rifkin, and the marvellous though, so far, in limbo Dick Hyman readings.

Appling’s performances are instead marked by very slow tempos, a stately, relaxed approach that bespeaks great affection and an almost wonderingly, lingering appreciation of the Joplin harmonies, strains and counter-melodic statements. This means that for some these readings will sound devitalised. Magnetic Rag for instance is seigniorial in its approach; Rifkin’s accents bite more tightly, whiles Albright’s breathless enthusiasm takes him to the cusp of acceptability in terms of promoting melody lines. Elite Syncopations rather lacks vitality and is rendered significantly less dramatic than others’ recordings, whilst Gladiolus Rag sounds rather short-winded, and unenergised. One should perhaps accept that Appling’s approach is his own, but that it’s a singular, very relaxed one.

His Bach shares some of these approaches too. The Italian Concerto has some rather didactic moments and is again reserved both in tempi and in a sense of terpsichorean accenting. The central movement doesn’t flow ideally and there’s a sense of internalisation, and reserve in the finale. The B flat partita again circumvents the dance based imperatives of the music, whilst favouring a rather horizontal approach.

Nevertheless it’s not unmoving to hear Appling’s unproblematically recorded Bach and Joplin, given what one knows of his biography.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Elite Syncopations by Scott Joplin
Performer:  William Appling (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902; USA 
2.
Augustan Club Waltz by Scott Joplin
Performer:  William Appling (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901; USA 
3.
Magnetic Rag by Scott Joplin
Performer:  William Appling (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; USA 
4.
The Ragtime Dance by Scott Joplin
Performer:  William Appling (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1899; USA 
5.
Gladiolus Rag by Scott Joplin
Performer:  William Appling (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907; USA 
6.
Euphonic Sounds by Scott Joplin
Performer:  William Appling (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; USA 
7.
Bink's Waltz by Scott Joplin
Performer:  William Appling (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905; USA 
8.
Italian Concerto, BWV 971 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  William Appling (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; Leipzig, Germany 
9.
Partita for Keyboard no 1 in B flat major, BWV 825 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  William Appling (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726-1731; Leipzig, Germany 

Featured Sound Samples

The Augustan Club Waltzes (Joplin)
Magnetic Rag (Joplin)
Italian Concerto (Bach): III. Presto
Euphonic Sounds (Joplin)
Keyboard Partita no 1 (Bach): Allemande

Sound Samples

Elite Syncopations
Augustan Club Waltz
Magnetic Rag
Concerto in the Italian Style in F major, BWV 971, "Italian Concerto": I. -
Concerto in the Italian Style in F major, BWV 971, "Italian Concerto": II. Andante
Concerto in the Italian Style in F major, BWV 971, "Italian Concerto": III. Presto
The Ragtime Dance
Gladiolus Rag
Euphonic Sounds
Blinks'Waltz: Blinks' Waltz
Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825: I. Praeludium
Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825: II. Allemande
Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825: III. Corrente
Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825: IV. Sarabande
Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825: V. Menuet I-II
Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825: VI. Giga

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