Jed Distler's Scott Joplin Review

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Jed Distler's Scott Joplin Review

I just happened to come across Jed Distler's review here, published in May, of pianist William Appling's complete Scott Joplin.  I have been enjoying Appling's recording immensely since purchasing it after reading many positive comments online along with a 4.5 star review on AllMusic.com.  I was disappointed in both Mr. Distler's review and also in Gramophone having assigned him to review it, considering he had already given a very negative review to Appling's previous recording of Joplin and Bach several years earlier.  Considering that the Joplin selections on the earlier recording were also on this new one, did Gramophone not realize it would make sense to get another critic's opinion?  And this is particularly true since Distler even wrote a follow-up "apology" for his earlier review, mentioning how he hadn't even bothered to read the program notes before writing his review and admitted making a bunch of assumptions that he now regretted.  Seemed kind of pathetic, actually. 

 

Because both of Distler's reviews were so clearly off-base, I decided to check into his own work as a musician. He is apparently a pianist and composer of some skill, though he clearly has produced little of any consequence.  But it was interesting to read that he apparently studied with the pianist Dick Hyman.  In all these reviews, Distler makes a point of mentioning how fabulous Hyman's Joplin recordings are and how they should be resissued.  Well, take a listen to Hyman's "Maple Leaf Rag"; he plays it so ridiculously fast that it renders this great masterpiece meaningless.  He's obviously just showing off, giving it no trace of soulfulness, musicality, love, or anything that would make someone care about it.  Either Distler is just sucking up to his old teacher or he has zero idea of how Scott Joplin should actually be played.  

 

It is a shame that Gramophone did not give the assignment of reviewing Appling's wonderful Joplin recording to virtually any other critic else on its staff, someone who might have realized how fine it is.  I urge people to read the excellent review on AllMusic.com and the wonderful comments about it on ArkivMusic.com.  These reviewers understand what makes Appling's Joplin so beautiful, profound and meaningful.

Conifer Guy

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