The Easy Winners
|The Easy Winners|
|by Scott Joplin|
Cover to the first edition sheet music
|Publisher||Shattinger Music Company|
|Instrument: Piano Solo|
Title and cover
The title of the composition is a reference to athletes who win a sporting event without difficulty. The cover depicts scenes of baseball, football, horse racing and sailing.
According to musicologist and Joplin biographer Edward Berlin, "Easy Winners must be judged one of Joplin's great works. It has a classical balance between its strains, its moods, and in its progression from the smooth calm of strain A to the sporadic agitation of strain D."
The composition follows the structural pattern typical of many Joplin rags, although the pattern is extended to include an introduction before strain A and another before strain C, or the trio. Thus, the structure reads:
- Intro A A B B A Trio-Intro C C D D
In keeping with the sports theme of the composition, Joplin begins the trio with an introduction that is reminiscent of a bugle call signaling the beginning of a horse race. The intro is in A-flat major and the Trio is in the subdominant key of D-flat major.
Trio and strain D
Berlin notes that the trio is the composition's outstanding feature, revealing "musical thinking unusual for ragtime." One of Joplin's signature compositional techniques was the use of an inner voice descending a chromatic fourth in the pianist's right hand. In The Easy Winners, he builds the entire trio on the concept. The strain has four similar phrases that show a descent from B flat to A flat, all being interrupted before spelling out a full fourth. Finally, in the last five measures of the strain, Joplin begins the phrase an extra semitone higher at C flat and completes the chromatic descent to F natural. To emphasize this chromatic descent, Joplin double-stems the notes, suggesting they be brought out in performance.
Another notable feature of the trio is Joplin's use of a highly melodic bass line. Played by the left hand in octaves in the last five measures, it heightens the complexity of the chromatic descent in the right hand and helps bring the strain to resolution.
To further emphasize the importance of the trio's climactic phrase, the last five measures of the trio and D strains are identical, producing what Jasen and Tichenor call a "strong echo-like effect."
The copyright was registered October 10, 1901. The Shattinger Music Company of St. Louis, Missouri bought the piece and published a simplified version. Only later did John Stillwell Stark publish it as-written.
- "Classical Archives". Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- Berlin, Edward A. (1994). King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc. p. 100-101. ISBN 0-195-35646-2.
- Jasen, David A.; Trebor Jay Tichenor (1978). Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc. p. 88. ISBN 0-486-25922-6.
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