For years I have wanted to find a CD of ragtime music played by a string quartet. I once heard a quartet in Yellowstone National Park play Scott Joplin's "The Easy Winners" and "Country Club" and it was so refreshing to hear these piano rags played with such vigor and pep by a classical string quartet. So far, I have never found a CD entirely of string quartet ragtime, but this is very close!
The American Ragtime Ensemble, directed by violinist (and ragtime radio show host) David Reffkin, is essentially a string quartet with added bass and piano. The selections on this disc were recorded in June 1975--thank goodness they've finally found their way to compact disc. The sound quality is fantastic, and the spirited performances are excellent. The arrangements are fresh and exciting, breathing new life into some of these old rags. The pieces themselves are a nice mixture of famous and obscure rags spanning the entire era of "classic ragtime," from 1900's "Bowery Buck" by Tom Turpin to 1918's "Russian Rag" by George Cobb.
The CD packaging is very elegant. The 12-page booklet is printed in full color throughout and contains reproductions of many original sheet music covers along with detailed liner notes by Mr. Reffkin. The "enhanced" part of the disc provides access to a 10-minute audio mini-documentary about the ensemble and ragtime in general and larger music cover scans.
Overall, this is a delightful disc, one which I am thrilled to add to my ragtime collection. My only complaint is that the disc isn't long enough! It only runs 35 minutes, but every minute is enjoyable. Highly recommended!