The OG of OVPP
June 11, 2014 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Some highlights from Joshua Rifkin's career(s):

Academic and practical consensus still favors traditional Bach arrangements, but Rifkin's "One Voice Per Part" theory inspired a number of daring performances and recordings. Some examples:

-The opening of Bach's "Saint Matthew Passion;" performed by the Dunedin Consort, with John Butt directing. 8 singers total. (For comparison, listen to Ton Koopman approach the same work with dozens of choristers.)
-"Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen;" performed by Joshua Rifkin and the Bach Ensemble. 4 singers. (Compare a version by Philippe Herreweghe, godfather of traditional-instrument practice.)
-"Actus Tragicus;" Rifkin and The Bach Ensemble. 4 singers. (Compare Herreweghe, Gustav Leonhardt and Collegium Vocale Gent.)
-"Christ lag in Todesbanden," by Andrew Parrott and the Taverner Consort & Players. 4 singers. (Compare Gillesberger, Harnoncourt, and a throng of Viennese musicians.)

-A very different orchestral rendition of the Beatles.
-A guide to Bach's cantatas, with a comment on OVPP by reemonster.
posted by Iridic (9 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I had his first Joplin album on tape, and I haven't heard anyone else that could touch it.
posted by MtDewd at 2:33 PM on June 11, 2014

Hell, I never even knew the man did anything outside of Even Dozen Jug Band before right now. This album had a huge impact on me. And this was considered part of his lesser accomplishments?
posted by mediocre at 2:46 PM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Great post! Rifkin and Parrott are heroes of mine.

A wonderful read for musicians, or anyone with an interest in how Bach worked as musical businessman (organizing, hiring, rehearsing and performing with his choirs and musicians), read Andrew Parrott's The Essential Bach Choir, which includes a complete copy of Rifkin's original paper on the matter of "one voice per part" and fleshes out Rifkin's theories with a mix of hard evidence and educated guesswork.

A personal musical highlight of mine was hearing Parrott conduct the St. Matthew Passion with one voice to a part here in Manhattan. I was stoned. It was glorious.
posted by ReeMonster at 3:33 PM on June 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

And thanks for the shoutout! Just saw that...
posted by ReeMonster at 3:35 PM on June 11, 2014

That's interesting...I hadn't heard about Rifkin's thesis until this post, but having sung many of Bach's chorales with a variety of groups I've always just intuitively felt it worked best with single voice parts...of course I also prefer string quartets and sextets so I figured I was just being weird
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:42 PM on June 11, 2014

I met a guy with the first name Rifkin. I asked, and he confirmed that his parents were fans of you-know-who. He was born in the 70s.
posted by larrybob at 7:39 PM on June 11, 2014

I have the Baroque Beatles Book album somewhere (I really should rip that, haven't heard it in ages). For someone who loves both types of music, it's fun.

And his Scott Joplin recordings are the best; not too fast (per Joplin's admonition) and not too cluttered with improvisation. I discovered them (like a lot of people) after The Sting reawakened interest in Joplin's music. My joy at their eventual appearance on CD was tempered by my disappointment that that some tracks from the third album were omitted. As much as I hate short CDs, I would gladly pay for a two-disc version that included them all.

If you like his Joplin, he also recorded a disc that mixed ragtime compositions by Joseph Lamb and James Scott with tangos by Ernest Nazareth.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:43 PM on June 11, 2014

Judy Collins didn't quite understand the rhythm, but Rifkin's arrangement of Landini's "Lasso di Donna" is one of the wonderful things about Wildflowers.
posted by Creosote at 8:24 PM on June 11, 2014

Rifkin's a real musical Renaissance man. He was a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band, an attempt by Elektra records to cash in on the pre-Beatles jug band craze (e.g., the Rooftop Singers, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band), which also included Maria Muldaur, Dave Grisman, and John Sebastian as members. He also wrote to the Alex Ross Rest Is Noise blog about how he participated in John Cage's 1963 premiere of Erik Satie's Vexations, a piano piece that lasted a record-breaked 18 1/2 hours.
posted by jonp72 at 5:51 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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