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Wm Neil Roberts | Scott Joplin Ragtime Harpsichord
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Ragtime is a happy, jubilant kind of music. Together with jazz, ragtime is the most artistically original and distinctive indigenous American music. It combines an infectious lilting rhythm with subtle elegance. The African musical principle of syncopated off-beat rhythms superimposed over a regularly recurring supporting beat is characteristic of all Black American music, and is especially prominent in ragtime.
Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was a child prodigy, improvising astoundingly well by the age of eleven. He left home at fourteen, making his living as an itinerant musician by playing in saloons, pool halls, bawdy houses, all-night cafes, vaudevilles, traveling shows, and the like.
By 1893, Joplin had his own little orchestra with a job in Chicago’s Tenderloin district. Ragtime as we know it was taking shape, and by 1895 he had begun to publish his compositions. By the turn of the 20th century, ragtime was the rage. It was considered scandalous, and in 1901 the American Federation of Musicians commanded its members to stop playing it, with no success.
Treated with disdain by the American musical establishment, Joplin channeled his energies into the writing of an opera. Alas “Tremonisha” was a disastrous flop, and a saddened Joplin died just before the US entered World War I, bringing the ragtime era to a close.
Neil Roberts originally recorded these rags on the Clavier label, in two successive releases. The Neupert harpsichord he used had two manuals (keyboards), with seven pedals controlling the registrations, including eight and four foot, “lute,” and a sixteen foot which doubled the low bass notes.
|1.||Maple Leaf Rag|
|3.||The Easy Winners - Two Step|
|4.||Harmony Club Waltz|
|5.||Pine Apple Rag|
|6.||Sunflower Slow Rag - Two Step|
|7.||Bethena. A Concert Waltz|
|11.||The Entertainer - Two Step|
|13.||Scott Joplin's New Rag|
|17.||Rag-Time Dance - Stop-Time Two Step|
Wm Neil Roberts
The exceptional musicianship of Wm Neil Roberts, combined with the tonal resources of the Neupert revival harpsichord, brings Ragtime a refreshing elegance and ease. In the hands of a sympathetic and scholarly artist an instrument is but a tool for musical expression and Roberts' performances on this recording demonstrate another possible use of such an instrument.
Wm Neil Roberts holds two degrees in musicology and is well known for his recordings and concert appearances. This recording is a testament to Roberts' musical impartiality, sensitivity and sincerity: qualities admired and respected by his pupils, friends and audiences.
He teaches harpsichord of Occidental College and at the Harpsichord Center in Los Angeles. He is a founding member of the early music group Los Angeles Baroque Players, is book reviewer for the Southern California Early Music Society, and is an award winning watercolorist.
Click the white triangle to play a sample of each piece.
|Maple Leaf Rag|
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