NPR's Fred Child welcomes pianist Paul Posnak, a professor at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, to NPR. Posnak performs two uniquely American piano songs in advance of the July Fourth holiday weekend.
Posnak says that composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) was truly larger than life — a 19th century superstar — at the height of his fame.
During the Civil War, Gottschalk performed over 200 solo concerts a year, donating all the proceeds to war relief charity. Posnak performs Gottschalk's patriotic "Pasquinade."
As a youth, Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was trained by a German immigrant who taught him the essentials of classical piano harmony, voice leading and progressions.
Joplin combined this understanding of classical composition and structure to the offbeat, syncopated rhythms of early jazz and popular music.
His natural gift for melody and his elegant playing style assured that Joplin would be the best ragtime pianist of all time. Posnak plays Joplin's ebullient "Heliotrope Bouquet."