Sunday, February 12, 2012

“San Francisco Classical Voice: Is This Real 'Treemonisha'?”

[Scott Joplin Treemonisha; The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and Singers; Rick Benjamin, conductor; New World Records 80720 (2011)]

Scott Joplin (c.1867-1917) is featured at We present an excerpt from a review by Jason Victor Serinus of Scott Joplin Treemonisha, performed by The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and Singers on New World Records 80720 (2011):

San Francisco Classical Voice
February 8, 2012

Scott Joplin: Treemonisha
By Jason Victor Serinus
“In 1972, T.J. Anderson’s new orchestration of the opera received a joint production by the music department of Morehouse College and the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Robert Shaw and directed by dance great Katherine Dunham. Schuller’s orchestration and Broadway production featured a distinguished African-American cast (with Carmen Balthrop, Betty Allen, and Willard White among them) and a full-blown orchestra. Well-recorded in a large, resonant venue, it’s big and lively, with a superstition-spreading Zodzetrick (Ben Harney) who sounds for all the world like Sportin’ Life in the Gershwin brothers’ Porgy and Bess. Other accents are a mishmash, with Porgy-like Southern Negro dialect interspersed with European-influenced operatic English.

“Benjamin throws all that out the window. In its place comes what he believes to be as close to an authentic reconstruction as we are able to achieve in the absence of Joplin’s orchestration. Recorded in a smaller, drier acoustic, the 11-piece Paragon Ragtime Orchestra plays one-to-a part. Gone is Schuller’s grand scale, including the instruments -- oboes, bassoons, French horns, tuba, and harp – that Benjamin believes Joplin could not have called upon for his production(s).”  

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