A History of “Complete Scott Joplin” Albums

Over the years I have lost track of the “Complete” Joplin sets that have been produced. The first such effort I acquired was Richard Zimmerman’s Scott Joplin: His Complete Works, first as an LP Set (Murray Hill, 1974) and then on CD. The release coincided with the first Sedalia Joplin Festival that Richard directed. Another large collection of Joplin Rags by Joshua Rifkin had been issued by Nonesuch in 1970 and I had those by 1974.

I have since accumulated several more “Complete” Joplin piano works. Ann Charters recorded 12 Joplin rags as A Joplin Bouquet in 1958 and later enlarged her repertoire on The Genius of Scott Joplin and included many of Joplin’s ragtime compositions. “Knocky” Parker followed with his complete works set for Audiophile in August 1960.

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Beginning with Arnie Caplin in the 1970, most of Joplin’s piano music was released on Arnie’s Biograph label as recordings from piano rolls, including of course the ones cut by Joplin himself. When I first met Arnie, he was working out of his home in Caanan, New York in the Catskills and his basement was packed with cases of his piano roll recordings. In 1972-73 Max Morath issued most of Joplin’s works as The Best of Scott Joplin and The World of Scott Joplin on the Vanguard label.

John Arpin’s recording of The Complete Piano Music of Scott Joplin came out in 1988 on the Fanfare label. Scott Kirby began recording a complete Joplin set in (1989-1990) on the Green Pastures label. Also in 1989 William Albright produced his Complete Joplin Rags recording for Musicmasters.

In 2017, along with Richard Dowling’s Joplin Centennial set, a complete set by William Appling was issued nearly a decade after the pianist’s death on Appling’s own label.

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This summary was taken from a larger article about the Grammy Nomination Bryan Wright received for the liner notes to The Complete Piano Works of Scott Joplin by Richard Dowling.

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