J.L. ZAIMONT: PRESTIDIGITATIONSContemporary Concert Rags
Judith Lang Zaimont
AMERICAN RAGTIME ENSEMBLE
David Reffkin, Director
Immanuel Davis & Elizabeth Ann Owens, Flute
Doris L. Kosloff, Joanne Polk, Nanette Kaplan Solomon & Judith Lang Zaimont Piano
"I've got to rave about this disc for its material and its presentation. All the music I find flat-out wonderful, over a wide emotional spectrum. All the performers, first-rate, delve into the material, and all come up with very individual interpretations... the performers do really fine jobs. I was particularly struck by the different pianists. Zaimont, as befits the professional pianist who wrote these works, wrings the most from her solos. On the other hand, Joanne Polk, Nanette Kaplan Solomon and Doris Kosloff possess more ringing tones. David Reffkin contributes clear and refined arrangements, and his American Ragtime Ensemble plays delicately and with taste... I prefer Zaimont's to Bolcom's [Rags] as music. This may well end up one of my best discs of the year."
Steve Schwartz, Classical Net - March 2009
"Judith Zaimont shows her playful side with this set of chamber rags for solo piano, duo, and ensemble. Basing her compositions in ragtime rhythms she challenges the boundaries of the form, but keeps the feel of ragtime at the core. She uses a variety of tempos and moods, from lively to introspective, and presents three different versions of her “Reflective Rag” arranged for various instruments. With help from the American Ragtime Ensemble and other folks, she gives us a delightful and charming series of contemporary works with a foot in the past."
CD Library HotList - February 2008
"[a] thoroughly enjoyable CD. .. Some of the most striking music is to be heard in ‘Bubble-Up Rag’, a work of considerable complexity and length, which shifts in and out of ragtime rhythms and which explores a harmonic language that would, indeed, have startled the ragtime pioneers. It gets an excellent, compelling performance from Immanuel Davis and Nanette Kaplan Solomon. ‘Serenade’ …is an intriguing piece of real, if mysterious, charm… Judith Lang Zaimont’s treatment of ragtime is characterised by respect and affection, by ease and familiarity and by an inventiveness which, for all its musical sophistication, is never in danger of overwhelming the structures and language of its source idiom. The results are delightfully entertaining."
MusicWeb International - December 2007
"[Bubble-Up Rage is] probably the best new piece for flute and piano that I've heard in a long time...[Reflective Rag] is wistful, lyrical - a beautiful remembrance of ragtime that moves me...[Zaimont and Kosloff's performance of the Snazzy Sonata] is extraordinary for its verve and ensemble..."
American Record Guide - November / December 2007
"...an irresistible program of original rags and other pieces of popular Americana that the composer tweaks to loving, rollicking and poignant effect... The performances are captivating across the board, including those featuring Zaimont herself as pianist...the music enchants."
Gramophone - October 2007
"[Zaimont's] rags...are inventive, strongly lyrical, and have an easy charm. Zaimont creates a variety of moods, from the relaxed Lazy Beguine to the kinetic Bubble-Up Rag, but more often than not, the pieces tend to be more introspective and slower-paced than classic rags. Serenade...is especially lovely — lyrical, melancholy, with elegiac harmonies. Zaimont's ease with the idiom makes her performances the highlights of the album, as well as that of her duet with her sister, Doris L. Kosloff, in Snazzy Sonata. The album should be of interest to fans of ragtime, and of the new works generated by the ragtime revival."
All Music Guide - September 2007
"An elegant, gorgeous, and revelatory demonstration of the possibilities latent in one of America’s most venerated but stylistically underdeveloped forms."
World Magazine - July 2007
"Webster tells us that prestidigitation refers to legerdemain, sleight of hand or a display of skill or adroitness – an apt title for the musical and compositional prowess contained in this disc. Judith Lang Zaimont’s works include symphonies, oratorios and music for a wide variety of chamber ensembles. Yet during her career, which spans three decades, she has chosen to weave ragtime into many of her pieces, too, and these have now been assembled onto this CD. She states, “(T)hese concert works could be thought of as wholly American counterparts to such music as Chopin’s polonaises and mazurkas, similarly derived from national dance forms.” Well said...This is classical music with ragtime underpinnings and the axiom of a strict cadence throughout has been tossed out the window. On Bubble-Up Rag, a catchy theme opens and closes this lengthy opus with much exploring in between. Reflective Rag is infused with contemporary classical harmonic ideas, yet it never lets go of its ragtime roots. It is quite interesting to hear it played first by the composer as a piano solo, then by the American Ragtime Ensemble under the baton of violinist David Reffkin, and finally as a flute and piano duet, each track standing solidly on its own...Judy’s Rag is a great musical romp, taking ragtime patterns through a variety of tempos. The Ensemble’s version of Lazy Beguine (heard later in a four-handed piano cut) is hauntingly beautiful; Hesitation Rag opens with a cakewalk pattern and quickly moves into lush, romantic chording. Snazzy Sonata is a four-part work for two pianists on one piano. Its Moderate Two-Step is sprightly and infectious, the Bebop Scherzo is frenetic and technically challenging and the Grand Valse Brilliante is stately with a rapidly fluid undercurrent. Serenade, an introspective tone poem, brings the recording to a satisfying conclusion...The recorded sound is perfect, the liner notes are excellent and the selection of artists is outstanding. I especially liked Moderate Two-Step and also the final version of Reflective Rag, where its cakewalk rhythm pattern sings out on the clear voice of the flute. However, the reader should be advised that this is very modern music – sometimes jarring, often lyrical and frequently confusing to the listener who likes his/her ragtime divided neatly into 16-measure sections. It will take multiple listenings to grasp all that this music has to offer, but Judith Lang Zaimont has taken contemporary classical music and made it very approachable through the medium of ragtime."
- Jack Rummel, Ragtimers.org - June 2007
"Judging from the music on this recording, Zaimont has not only brought the great rag music we know from the past into the twenty-first century, but she has created new music that will have a definite appeal...[Judy's Rag] illustrates the pianistic prowess of the [Zaimont]...[In Snazzy Sonata], Zaimont performs this with her sister, Doris Lang Kosloff, and both capture the spirit of the rag with toe-tapping rhythms and musical flavors...The disc is well presented, with authoritative notes and good processing. For me, this was a highly entertaining 57-plus minutes. It's a disc full of good music that will definitely put a an extra jump in your step!"
- Lance Hill, Classical Music Guide, June 2007
"Lyricism, variety – delightful contemporary music. Zaimont brings ragtime solidly forward to the 21st century, yet honors its century-old origins. She gets us to view ragtime as music."
- MAX MORATH
Ragtime is in my blood – its catchy tunes and buoyant rhythms.
Side by side with more elaborate concert works, I’ve been composing rag-based pieces for more than three decades. And when these two musical domains continually intersect in my imagination, the manner of each mutually enriches the other, generating concert-framed works that tap into infectious ‘ragged time’ as deep-down, or overt, source. Very often elaborated in their forms, these concert works could be thought of as wholly American counterparts to such music as Chopin’s polonaises and mazurkas, similarly derived from national dance forms.
My compositions based on ragtime rhythms and turns of phrase are brought together here for the first time, as a ‘program’ in themselves. Though the pieces share kinship in employing syncopation as fundamental building block, with tunes marking each major segment, they differ quite noticeably in attitude – chiefly because I’m fascinated with ragtime’s tendency to smudge the beat, and to phase in and out of the predominating beat stream. Also, I decided to write rags whose tempi cover a much wider range than is usual for ragtime: from motoric fast gearing down through a moderate two-step, and finally slowing altogether into the most gentle rocking. By moving from tempo to tempo syncopation gets redefined; and without undue pressure the music covers a gamut from extrovert to quite-private statement.
It’s a pleasure for a composer when a piece achieves ‘escape velocity’, traveling beyond the original orbit of its premiere to where many artists/ensembles independently take it up. Such has been the case with most of these pieces. David Reffkin, recipient of the 2006 Scott Joplin Award and Director of San Francisco’s American Ragtime Ensemble, has adapted several of these movements for his group. Along with their original piano versions, two Reffkin arrangements are included here – Reflective Rag and Lazy Beguine (from the Snazzy Sonata), plus my own flute and piano transcription of Reflective Rag.
Judith Lang Zaimont’s music is internationally acclaimed for its expressive strength and dynamism. Many of her 100 works are prize-winning compositions. These include symphonies, chamber opera, oratorios and cantatas, and music for chorus, voice, solo instrument and a wide variety of chamber ensembles. Her composition awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, commission grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and American Composers Forum, a 2003 Aaron Copland Award and 2005 Bush Foundation Fellowship.
Zaimont’s music is frequently played in the United States and abroad and has been programmed by ensembles such as the Philadelphia, Baltimore and Mississippi symphony orchestras, the Berlin Radio Orchestra, Czech Radio Orchestra in Prague, Kremlin Chamber Orchestra in Moscow, Kharkov Philharmonic in the Ukraine and the Women's Philharmonic in California. Her works are widely published and recorded, have served as competition repertoire for international piano and conducting competitions, and two are cited on the Century Lists of Piano International and Chamber Music of America. After a distinguished career as educator at Peabody Conservatory and the University of Minnesota, and editor of The Music Woman book series, she is now concentrating fully on composing.
For more information, visit www.jzaimont.com
JUDITH LANG ZAIMONT
Reflective Rag (Flute & Piano)
Reflective Rag (Solo Piano)
Judy's Rag (Solo Piano)
Lazy Beguine (Ensemble)
Hesitation Rag (Solo Piano)
Snazzy Sonata – An Entertainment for Two
Moderate Two-Step / Lazy Beguine / Bebop Scherzo / Grand Valse Brillante (Ensemble)
Reflective Rag (Piano Four Hands)
Serenade (Solo Piano)'