Ragtime break

Scott Joplin.

Today the New York Times remembers ragtime great Scott Joplin, who died 100 years ago last month:

While here, Mr. Joplin published 25 of his 53 works, including three significant rags: “Wall Street,” “Pineapple” and “Magnetic.” He wrote his 1911 opera Treemonisha in Harlem. Its theme — the salvation of the African-American race through education — made it a tough sell at the time. He “couldn’t get anyone interested in it,” [pianist Richard] Dowling said. “Even Irving Berlin turned him down.”

Below, Joshua Rifkin performs “Bethena: A Concert Waltz,” one of Joplin’s lovelier efforts, composed in 1905. According to Wikipedia, “It was the first Joplin work since his wife Freddie’s death on September 10, 1904 of pneumonia, ten weeks after their wedding.”

2 thoughts on “Ragtime break”

  1. Rifkin is classically trained, and it shows in this performance: A plodding tempo and too legato for ragtime. Below is a different performance with a better interpretation. Although the tempo is equally slow, Hall’s touch is lighter, more stacatto, and with a more propulsive rhythmic drive despite the slow tempo. Likely closer to how Joplin might have done it, according to what I’ve read. Hall is also a Bach scholar according to the info on YouTube, and that in itself might be worthy of a blog post.

  2. I think Marilyn knows Cory Hall, in fact. Though I will offer a minor quibble in that it’s a different performance with a different (not necessarily “better”) interpretation. The Rifkin version is the first I heard and has, at least, that sentimental value.

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