Scott Joplin

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Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin (born June 1867 to January 1868 near Linden , Texas , † April 1, 1917 in New York City , New York ) was an American composer and pianist . More conclusively than other composers of ragtime , Joplin, who is regarded as the “finisher of this style”, has combined elements of the romantic piano tradition with Afro-American folklore "to form powerful miniatures whose aphoristic density comes close to pieces by Erik Satie " ( Martin Kunzler). In addition to around eighty rags, Joplin has also written stage works.


Scott Joplin, son of a slave who had been freed at the time of his birth , played the violin as a child and received systematic piano lessons from Julius Weiss from the age of seven. At the age of fifteen he was already a pub pianist in Texas and Louisiana . From 1885 to 1893 Joplin lived as a musician in St. Louis, where he played in the honky tonks and saloons . In 1893 he appeared at the world exhibition in Chicago . Until 1904 he lived in Sedalia (Missouri) , where the Maple Leaf Rag was made, then back in St. Louis.

From 1895 at the latest, most of his compositions were written, which he wrote for his own use as well as for his vocal group The Texas Medley Quartet , which appeared in vaudeville shows. He became one of the first successful rag composers. He was given the recognition of his contemporaries, and he had a sales success of sheet music for his pieces, which was at least partially paying off. However, not inconsiderable parts of his work, including complex works such as a musical, an opera and a symphony, were never published and have been lost to this day.

An accident broke off his developing success. He continued to publish and after a few years was able to live passably again.

Scott Joplin was married a total of three times. His first marriage to Belle was divorced, his second wife Freddie died a few weeks after the wedding at the age of only 20 from complications from pneumonia, his third wife was Lottie.

He himself died in 1917 as a result of tertiary syphilis .


Of Joplin's numerous rags, The Entertainer and the Maple Leaf Rag are the most famous pieces. Only the opera Treemonisha (1911; re-orchestrated by Gunther Schuller ) has survived from his stage works . The opera A Guest of Honor , composed in honor of Theodore Roosevelt , is lost, as is his ballet The Ragtime Dance .

Together with James Scott and Joseph Lamb , Joplin is one of the "Big Three" of classic, composed ragtime. His compositions are consistently pianistically demanding, so there are numerous simplified editions. Joplin always insisted that his pieces were "not fast" to play; “Slow March Time” is often requested: “It's never right to play ragtime fast”. In doing so, he contradicted the fast-paced playing practice of some of his contemporaries, who used more simply structured rags to emphasize speed rather than musicality.

His printed edition of the "Maple Leaf Rag", published in 1899, can be regarded as a milestone in "popular music" - the first piece of music to be sold in more than a million copies. With this, Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" for an "Eternal List of Popular Music" replaced the hundreds of thousands of copies of the piano piece "Prayer of a Virgin" by Tekla Bądarzewska from 1856 after almost 50 years.

There is a recording of Pleasant Moments made by Joplin himself for the Aeolian Company's Metro Art series on piano roll . It gives an impression of the gaming habits of his time. The other piano rolls are rolls drawn by editors, often with a number of strokes per measure that cannot be played by hand.

After Joplin's death, jazz pushed ragtime out of the public eye for a few decades. Almost 60 years after his death, Joplin and his work enjoyed wide recognition again. In particular through the seven-time Oscar- winning film Der Clou (1973) with Robert Redford, for whose film music was drawn from the work of Scott Joplin, ragtime regained popularity. While the interpretation of his rags by John Arpin is considered particularly authentic, the recording from 1974 by the pianist Joshua Rifkin enabled a new perspective on this music.

The Scott Joplin House State Historic Site was established in 1984 at Scott Joplin's former residence in St. Louis .

His most ambitious work, the opera Treemonisha, about the living conditions of Afro-Americans in the reconstruction era, premiered in Bayonne (New Jersey) in 1913 and in Atlanta in 1972, then almost forgotten. The German premiere took place in August 1984 at the Stadttheater Gießen . Another performance on a German stage was brought out on April 25, 2015 by the Dresden State Theater, directed and choreographed by Massimo Gerardi .

Works (selection)

Ragtime Betty
violinist: João Pedro Cunha
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  • 1896: The Great Crush Collision March , Combination March , Harmony Club Waltz
  • 1899: Original Rags , Maple Leaf Rag
  • 1900: Swipesy Cakewalk (with Arthur Owen Marshall )
  • 1901: Peacherine Rag , Sunflower Slow Drag , The Easy Winners , Augustan Club Waltzes
  • 1902: A Breeze From Alabama , Cleopha , Elite Syncopations , March Majestic , The Entertainer , The Ragtime Dance , The Strenuous Life , I Am Thinking Of My Pickaninny Days
  • 1903: Palm Leaf Rag , Something Doing , Weeping Willow , Little Black Baby , A Guest of Honor (opera)
  • 1904: The Cascades , The Chrysanthemum , The Favorite , The Sycamore
  • 1905: Bethena , Eugenia , Leola , Sarah Dear , The Rosebud March , Bink's Waltz
  • 1906: Antoinette , Eugenia , The Ragtime Dance , Good-bye Old Gal Good-bye (arranged)
  • 1907: Gladiolus Rag , Rose Leaf Rag , When Your Hair Is Like The Snow , Heliotrope Bouquet (with Louis Chauvin ), Lily Queen (with Arthur Owen Marshall), The Nonpareil , Searchlight Rag , Snoring Sampson (arranged)
  • 1908: Fig Leaf Rag , Hooker's Hooker , Pine Apple Rag , School Of Ragtime , Sugar Cane , Sensation (arranged)
  • 1909: Country Club , Euphonic Sounds , Paragon Rag , Pleasant Moments , Solace , Wall Street Rag
  • 1910: Stoptime Rag
  • 1910: Treemonisha , opera
  • 1911: Felicity Rag , Lovin 'Babe
  • 1912: Scott Joplin's New Rag
  • 1913: Kismet Rag
  • 1914: Magnetic Rag
  • 1916: Ole Miss Rag
  • 1917: Reflection Rag
  • 1917: Silver Swan Rag (posthumous)

See also

  • MIDI file for listening


Web links

Commons : Scott Joplin  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Biography Scott Joplin - the man and his music. Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation, accessed March 7, 2020 . as well as Reclam's jazz dictionary ; However, Kunzler's jazz dictionary gives the date of birth November 24, 1868.
  2. ^ History of the Pianola Pianola Institute
  3. Worn Axles: Pleasant Moments ( August 3, 2009 memento in the Internet Archive )
  4. Barrymore Laurence Scherer: Opera 'Treemonisha' as It Was Intended To Be . In: Wall Street Journal , December 6, 2011; accessed April 26, 2015
  5. ^ Nancy R. Ping Robbins, Guy Marco: Scott Joplin: A Guide to Research . Routledge, 2014, ISBN 0-8240-8399-7 , pp. 299 (English, page in GoogleBooks [accessed March 7, 2020] first edition: 1998).
  6. Treemonisha - opera with danced scenes, libretto and music by Scott Joplin, arranged by Keno Hankel, Felix Klingner and Florian Baum. State Theater Dresden; accessed April 26, 2015
  7. ^ Edward A. Berlin: A Biography of Scott Joplin (c.1867 - 1917). Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation, 1998, archived from the original on February 24, 2007 ; accessed on August 1, 2007 .