The opening section of Scott Joplin’s 1908 Sugar Cane is often compared to that of his earlier Maple Leaf Rag. Sugar Cane is “sweeter” and brighter, being in the key of B-flat major—Maple Leaf Rag is in the mellower key of A-flat. The tendency for pianists to pass by Sugar Cane is likely due to the scintillating right hand sixteenth note flourishes in the opening bars, which may seem imposing to some performers.
An often-overlooked detail of Scott Joplin’s pieces are his dynamics. The last four measures of the B and D sections—identical, like those in The Nonpareil—are marked mezzo piano, softening the cadence at the end of each section. Recommend recordings of Sugar Cane are by Richard Dowling, James Levine, and Alessandro Simonetto; Simonetto’s is unorthodox, shimmering, and great fun. Sheet music for this piece can be downloaded from imslp.org.