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Joshua Rifkin


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Joshua Rifkin (born April 22, 1944 in New York) is an American conductor, keyboard player, and . He is best known by the general public for having played a central role in the ragtime revival in the 1970s with the three albums he recorded of Scott Joplin’s works for Nonesuch Records. The albums - which were presented as classical music recordings - were critically-acclaimed, commercially successful and led to other artists exploring the ragtime genre. Rifkin’s work as a revivalist of Joplin’s work immediately preceded the adaptation of Joplin’s music by Marvin Hamlisch for the film The Sting (1973).

Rifkin first came to public attention in the mid-’60s, with an album of Baroque arrangements of Beatles compositions that peaked at #83 on the Billboard LP chart.

Rifkin is best-known to classical musicians for his thesis that much of Johann Sebastian Bach’s vocal music, including the St. Matthew Passion, was performed with only one singer per voice part, an idea generally rejected by his peers when he first proposed it in 1981. But in the twenty-first century the idea has become widely influential. The conductor Andrew Parrott has written a book arguing for the position (The Essential Bach Choir; Boydell Press, 2000; as an appendix the book includes the original paper that Rifkin began to present to the American Musicological Society in 1981, a presentation he was unable to complete because of a strong audience reaction). Such respected Bach scholars as Daniel Melamed and John Butt have argued in its favor.


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