Scott Joplin’s Solace was described by the composer as “A Mexican Serenade for piano” But it is, surprisingly, neither authentically Mexican nor authentic ragtime. The entire composition is more rightly classified as a habañera, a dance which has its roots in Havana. The original has a number of tango rhythms, which are distantly related to African folk dance traditions, but are more commonly known as coming from Latin America. Solace is, then, a true musical hybrid and, as such, a thoroughly American work of art.
James L. King III’s arrangement is based on the famous last theme from the piece, which is the one familiar to the public today by way of the 1973 movie The Sting. Transposed to G major from the original F, it fits more easily under the hands. On the slightly more difficult side of early intermediate, this piece has only a few tricky fingerings.
For anyone not yet ready to tackle the original sheet music, this arrangement stays faithful to Joplin’s spirit and is a popular recital choice.
Key: G major
Mood: content, lazy, dreamy
Pedagogy: syncopation, fingering, 1st and 2nd endings