My opinion is that an effective performance of some of Joplin's
pieces requires the player to rein in the tempo a bit. Some rags
such as Solace, the opening strain of Wall Street, Rose Leaf, Fig Leaf,
Gladiolus, etc., have a lush and beautiful sound which suffers greatly
when played too fast.
To me Fig Leaf sounds wonderful when played at a tempo of quarter-note
= 50 or so, with rubato to taste. On the other hand, Maple Leaf sounds
good played about twice as fast. My preference is also to play most of
Joplin's rags in straight time (i.e., as written, rather than swinging
I like the idea of playing the best Joplin rags as good music rather
than potboilers, something like what Joshua Rifkin did in the early
1970s with his Joplin recordings (though I find those performances to
be a bit too "serious" in interpretation.) Rags such as Paragon and
Country Club, though, are more or less potboilers and sound a bit silly
when played in an overly expressive style.