Dream Shadows: The Ragtime Music of Albright, Bolcom, McNally,
William McNally, piano
Rivermont Records BSW-2246
The Dream Rags:
Sleepwalker’s Shuffle / Nightmare Fantasy Rag (A Night on Rag Mountain) /
Morning Reveries / Three Ghost Rags: Graceful Ghost / The
Poltergeist / Dream Shadows / Ragtime / Piano-Rag Music / Stride Rite (A Work of
Genius) / Curious Creatures: Blue Donkey Rag / Mocha Monkey Rag /
The Black Unicorn (A Ragtime Fallacy).
It may be just a coincidence that this recording arrives on the heels of a
Rivermont CD of recent rags that hearken back to an earlier era (“Revival
Ragtime,” Rivermont BSW-2245), for the contrast between these two discs couldn’t
be farther apart. William McNally’s passion is to embrace the future
possibilities of ragtime, based somewhat on the changes and experimentations
that have redefined 20th century classical music.
(A disclaimer: While I have spent over 40 years immersed in a love affair
with ragtime, I have had no formal musical education and thus I admit to
feelings of inadequacy when asked to review the creation of a musician who holds
a Doctor of Musical Arts degree.)
Of the pieces included on this CD, only one is apt to be readily familiar
to most ragtime audiences. William Bolcom’s Graceful Ghost has been
recorded by over a dozen different artists. It has become a perennial favorite,
yet the other two parts of his “Ghost” suite, The Poltergeist and
Dream Shadows, remain in relative obscurity, perhaps due to their slightly
jarring harmonies and/or somewhat unconventional approach to the genre.
Similarly, William Albright’s name is closely associated with ragtime, due
in no small part to his excellent release of Scott Joplin’s complete piano
works, yet his three “Dream” rags have received precious little attention. Igor
Stravinsky’s two compositions, Ragtime and Piano-Rag Music,
stretch the definition to its outer limits and serve to represent the classical
composers of the early 1900s who experimented with the “new” sound. David
Feurzeig’s Stride Ride from 2003 pays homage to Stravinsky, even to
borrowing, according to the composer, “upward of half a dozen direct quotes”
from Piano-Rag Music.
McNally’s compositions bring the listener back to what Albright and Bolcom
have set forth, namely more recognizable grounding in ragtime; two of them,
Blue Donkey Rag and Mocha Monkey Rag have won New Ragtime contests,
the latter being my favorite piece on the disc.
I admire his courage in recording this project. His talents are
prodigious, the recording quality is excellent and the 20-page liner notes are
extremely helpful in navigating what for some listeners may be uncharted
waters. Just as classical artists have found acceptance of the works of
Stravinsky, Satie, Milhaud, Ives and other “Modern” composers when they are
included in the company of works by “The Old Masters,” so I predict that the
works that William McNally has so masterfully interpreted will gain increasing
acceptance through expanded exposure.
Available for $15.95 plus postage or for $9.95 as an mp3 download at <www.rivermontrecords.com>.