In 1973, a Hollywood movie brought the name of Scott Joplin before a wider audience than the composer might ever have imagined. The film was The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and was scored by Marvin Hamlisch, a young composer/arranger who soon would enjoy enormous success on Broadway with his score for A Chorus Line. Although The Stingwas set in 1936, Hamlisch and director George Roy Hill decided to use ragtime music, notably Joplin’s rag The Entertainer, written in 1902. Hamlisch’s version of this catchy tune topped the hit parade and sold two million copies in the USA alone. For a brief period, Joplin became mainstream. The Historically Informed crowd also got in on the act. Recordings appeared from Gunther Schuller and Ralph Grierson of the original published orchestrations of Joplin’s work, from a collection called The Red Back Book.

Scott Joplin Scott Joplin

In the late 1960s, the pianist Joshua Rifkin, and later the composer/pianist William Bolcom had reintroduced Joplin’s music to a classical audience, which is where Hamlisch and Hill discovered it. In spite of the syncopated rhythms and offbeat accents, classical music lovers recognised Joplin’s...

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