Tune of the Day: Elite Syncopations
Published in 1902, just three years after “Maple Leaf Rag”, this marvelous display of pianistic prowess shows Scott Joplin's potential for innovation and development. Of course, all ragtime music is rhythmically charged, forward-thrusting and syncopated, but there is a particular bounce to the step of “Elite Syncopations”.
The piece is marked "Not fast", but “fast” in this instance must be seen as a relative term: it is likely that in Joplin's time many pianists were playing his rags at breakneck speeds to show off their skill. It has been widely agreed that the composer's intention was that his pieces were not to be played at outlandish speeds, but in a controlled manner.
“Elite Syncopations” is built, as are all of Joplin's pieces, from several tuneful strands. In the last two sections, we move from the key of F major to the key of B-flat major, never to return.