The Entertainer is the highest level piece in my repetoire--although not polished yet.
I pedal primarily to hold the lower left hand notes so they do not sound too staccato.
I agree on Rifkin--in general, but for "Bethena", listen to Peskanov sometime. Slow and beautiful.
Hi Russ, I am a Rifkin "disciple", and I love the way he plays ragtime...slow and majestic, but again, it's a matter of personal preference. But there are bouncy, stacatto versions out there that are very nice to listen to also. I've had the discussion on the ABF forum, and lots of people prefer "bouncy" and more staccato, and a few liked my "repost" of the bouncy staccato version better. Rifkin has been criticized also for being too slow, leaning on the pedal, and making ragtime sound like a Chopin nocturne. Again, it boils down to personal preference.
Based on everyone's feedback, I'm still trying to decide how I'll play my next rag, "The Weeping Willow". I'm experimenting right now, but still months away from finishing.
And yes, I modeled my rendition of "Bethena" after both Peskanov and Randy Kerber, who played this for the Benjamin Button movie. I've listened to both versions hundreds of times before I made my own. I have a few of Peskanov's MP3s also..I think he's one of the great "modern interpreters" of Joplin also.
Like yourself, I'd have to say "Entertainer" was the hardest piece in my repertoire also. The octaves in the 1st and 2nd strains are extremely tough to play cleanly.
Have fun and good luck with it.