Imperial Rag, Max Morath’s first Ragtime composition, was written in 1954 and eventually included in Cripple Creek: A Ragtime Suite for Piano three decades later. The 28-year-old Morath shows great compositional maturity in Imperial Rag. The piece displays harmonic ingenuity and rhythmic originality, hallmarks of Morath’s later work. The composer admits in the introductory program note to Cripple Creek that two of Imperial Rag’s themes were derived from improvised film accompaniment.
Imperial Rag is energetic but too melodically interesting and pianistically challenging to become frenetic. Sheet music for all of Morath’s piano rags—published by Hal Leonard—is widely available for purchase, as is Aaron Robinson’s recommend recording of them.