News for Joplin
- Scott Joplin memorial concert in New York
[posted 3 May 2006]
On 13 May 2006 there will be a Scott Joplin Memorial Concert. This will take place at St. Michael's Cemetery (Joplin's resting place), 7202 Astoria Blvd., East Elmhurst, NY, USA. Phone for information: 718-278-3240.
Compositions include: The Cascades, Sun Flower Slow Drag, The Chrysanthemum, The Entertainer (used in film "The Sting" with Paul Newman & Robert Redford); The Rag Time Dance, Sugar Cane, The Easy Winners, Maple Leaf Rag. These are orchestral versions of the piano rags and were recorded for this first time in 1973 by Gunther Schuller and the New England Ragtime Ensemble on Angel (EMI) in 1973, in an album called "The Red Back Book". Other piano rags are Maple Leaf Rag, The Entertainer, The Ragtime Dance, Gladiolas Rag, Fig Leaf Rag, Euphonic Sounds, Scott Joplin’s New Rag, Magnetic Rag, Elite Syncopations, Eugenia, Leola, Rose Leaf Rag — A Rag Time Two-Step, Bethena — A Concert Waltz, Paragon Rag, Solace — A Mexican Serenade, and Pineapple Rag. All of these piano rags were beautifully and idiomatically recorded in 1970 and 1972 by Joshua Rifkin on Nonesuch.
Scott Joplin considered his most important work to be the opera "Treemonisha" beautifully recorded by Deutsche Grammophon by Gunther Schuller and the Houston Grand Opera in the late 1970’s.
Scott Joplin was born in East Texas, USA, between 1 june 1867 and mid-January 1868. His father was a former slave and his mother was born free. In the mid-1870s, the family moved to Texarkana, Arkansas. There Scott’s mother worked as a domestic servant for a family with a piano, and young Scott was allowed to play it. Eventually, his father bought a used piano from his earnings as a railroad worker. Scott and his five siblings were raised in a musical environment. Both of their parents played instruments.
When Scott was 11 he learned the basics of music theory from a local musician with classical training. Joplin was still a teenager when he left home. He is believed to have made a living as an itinerant pianist working in bars and brothels. Joplin played on the periphery of the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He was a skilled pianist by then, but African Americans were not allowed to participate in the official program of concerts. At the Exposition Joplin met other accomplished pianists, including Otis Saunders, who became his friend and partner. The two men settled in Sedalia, Missouri in 1894.
Joplin met and married Belle Jones, studied composition at the George R. Smith College for Negroes, and began selling sheet music of his compositions. Business was slow until he sold "Maple Leaf Rag" to John Stark, a white businessman. The piece was an instant success. More than half a million copies were sold by 1909. Stark became Joplin’s agent and they moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Joplin was given the nickname "King of Ragtime" by his agent.
More ragtime hits followed in 1901 and 1902, but Joplin attempted to establish himself as a composer of larger-scale works as well. He wrote a folk ballet called "The Ragtime Dance" in 1902, and an opera entitled "A Guest of Honor" in 1903, but neither work was performed widely. The phonograph and the player piano reduced the market for sheet music sharply by 1906.
Personal tragedies struck as well. Joplin’s first child died in infancy, and his wife died a short time later. Joplin relocated to New York City, where he published a study guide called "School of Ragtime" in 1908. He produced "Wall Street Rag" and "Paragon Rag" in 1909, and published the opera "Treemonisha" in 1911. It contained some of his best music, but his efforts to have it staged were unsuccessful.
Joplin remarried, but tragedy struch again in the form of syphilis. The King of Ragtime was diagnosed with dementia, and died in a New York psychiatric ward on April 1, 1917. He was survived by Lottie Stokes Joplin, his second wife.
The renowned pianist Joshua Rifkin recorded Joplin’s piano rags in 1970. What made Joplin’s music the rage again was the 1973 film "The Sting", which included "The Entertainer" in its sound track. The complete opera was finally performed by the Houston Grand Opera conducted by Gunther Schuller. An original cast recording is available on Polygram 435709 (1992). The "Treemonisha Overture" has been recorded by the Italian pianist Marco Fumo on Dynamic CDS 351 (2000).
(Contribution by Bill Zick <wzickameritech.net>.)
Foremost American composer and practioner of rag time music; probably the forerunner of American jazz.
(Contribution by Ralph Barrocas - U.S.A. - <RBarrocasaol.com>)