I'm skipping to 1905 now - Scott Joplin published 11 rags from 1903-1904. These rags are mostly commercial songs. As such they have some clever passages, but arguably are not his best work. (Palm Leaf, Cascades, Chrysanthemum, Sycamore, Favorite, Something Doing, etc.) Joplin would never regain the towering success of the Maple Leaf, but he would retain the fame and respect that it provided. His name sold sheet music. There was an event in late 1904, however, that changed Joplin's life, and with it, changed his music. He had taken a wife in July 1904. The marriage lasted only a few weeks when his bride, Freddie (that was her real name) Alexander, caught pneumonia and died September 10, 1904. Joplin's music became more somber, more spiritual, and in many ways richer in his experimentations. Here is the first of two examples.
Bethena was copyrighted in 1905. It is a waltz. Joplin's list of instrumental waltzes includes Harmony Club Waltz (1896); Augustan Club Waltz (1901); Bethena (1905); Bink's Waltz (1905); and Pleasant Moments (1909). There were others, but they are unpublished, and our knowledge of them comes from unfinished manuscripts or newspaper mentions of pending compositions. There were also a couple of waltz pieces in Treemonisha, Scott Joplin's opera about a magic tree. Joplin also experimented with waltz songs, including Please Say You Will (1895) and A Picture of Her Face (1895). (Thanks to Perfessorbill for this background info!) Bethena has five strains, and some complex interludes. It is elegant, intricate, and emotional. See if you don't hear many emotions in this piece, particularly knowing the history around this song.
The cover of the published piece shows a young woman. It may be a picture of Freddie.
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