Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Piano Music of Scott Joplin (Part 2)

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

To complete our two-part survey of the piano music of Scott Joplin, I wanted to share tracks I downloaded from a still-active Public Domain site, LiberMusica.

In the first installment in this series I observed that the tempo on some of the ragtime tracks I unearthed years ago was, well, rather tame. My "go to" references for Joplin rags are the Dick Hyman/James Levine CD of Joplin's "Greatest Hits" (BMG) and the original soundtrack to the 1974 Motion Picture "The Sting", performed by Marvin Hamlisch (using Gunther Schuller's editions).

Joplin himself never made an audio recording as a pianist; however his playing is preserved on sevenpiano rolls. All seven were made between April and June 1916: six released under the Connorized label and the other roll, a recording of "Maple Leaf Rag" was recorded on the Uni-Record label in June 1916. It was recorded on better equipment than the Connorized rolls thus giving a truer record of Joplin's playing. (We note that at the time Joplin was suffering from the advanced symptoms of syphilis which would take his life 10 months later, so this recording is not a true record of his more youthful ability.)

These rolls are featured in the following YouTube playlist - with thanks to "Erik Satie".

It is therefore highly doubtful hat the performances provided in the so-called "Original piano rolls (1896-1917)" come from the playing of Joplin. Nonetheless, they are quite insightful and provide a better, more "authentic" tempo and playing style than the vast majority of the tracks I share last time. You can compare, as I highlight below the tracks that are "common" to both sets.


Scott JOPLIN (c.1868-1917)

  • The Entertainer (1902)
  • Pine Apple Rag (1908)
  • Reflection Rag (ca. 1907)
  • The "Rag Time Dance" (1902)
  • Sugar Cane (1908)
  • Combination March (1896)
  • Elite Syncopations (1902)
  • A Real Slow Drag (1911, Treemonisha:Act 3, no. 9)
  • Paragon Rag (1909)
  • Scott Joplin's New Rag (1912)
  • Solace (1909)
  • Paecherine Rag (1901)
  • Rose Leaf Rag (1907)
  • Swipesy Cake Walk (1900)
  • The Sycamore (1904)
  • Stoptime Rag (1910)
  • Silver Swan Rag (1914-18)
  • Original Rags (collab. with Charles Daniels, 1899)
  • Pleasant Moments. Rag-Time Waltz (1909)
  • Scott Joplin's Best Rag (Medley)

Piano Rolls (1896-1917)

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