|The Ragtime Offering was my first
composition and is the direct result of overdosing
simultaneously on Bach and Scott Joplin. It was written
in as close as I could come to classic rag style of
Joplin, but based on the theme from Bach's Musical
Offering, I gave the first performance at Virginia Tech
in 1976 at a Convocation for all of the music majors,
passing it off as a lost work of Scott Joplin that I had
found at the Library of Congress. And they believed it!
I had often thought of using the piece as part of a set, and upon learning that Joplin had published a collection called The Red Back Book (evidently it had a red cover), I decided to base all of the pieces on works of Bach and arrived at my present title. The Goldberg Rag uses the harmonies of the Goldberg Variations measure by measure, as well as quotes from Bach's variations. Of the three pieces,The Art of the Rag comes closest in style to both Bach
and Joplin. Bach's theme from the Art of the Fugue is heard simultaneously in augmentation and diminution, and during a passage with the theme inverted, the hands are crossed for a visual pun. There is a short fugato, and in the final measures, the main theme is combined with B - A - C - H. It also draws inspiration from A Real Slow Drag, from Joplin's one surviving opera, Treemonisha. The the last two rags were finished in 1980, and the first performance
was given on December 6, 1981 by Frank Conlon at the Church of the Annunciation, in Washington, DC.
In January of 1982, I first met Norman Levine, and played the rags for him on piano. He asked me to arrange them for mandolin ensemble (which would never have occurred to me, otherwise), and they became the first work to be published by the now defunct Plucked String Editions as PSE 001. That arrangement has been performed many times around the world, and has been recorded by the Cercle Royal de Mandolinistes de Malmedy (The Ragtime Offering, only), das Hessische Zupforchester, das Saiten-Ensemble Steglitz and The Italian Mando-Rag Club Citta di Brescia. I still like them better on the piano, though, and am happy to finally have the original version in print!