Rhapsody in Blue is a 1924 musical composition by American composer George Gershwin for solo piano and jazz band, which combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects.
Commissioned by bandleader Paul Whiteman, the composition was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé several times, including the original 1924 scoring, “theater orchestra” setting published in 1926, and the symphony orchestra scoring published in 1942, though completed earlier. The piece received its premiere in the concert, An Experiment in Modern Music, which was held on February 12, 1924, in Aeolian Hall, New York, by Whiteman and his band with Gershwin playing the piano.
The editors of the Cambridge Music Handbooks opined that “The Rhapsody in Blue (1924) established Gershwin’s reputation as a serious composer and has since become one of the most popular of all American concert works.”
After the success of an experimental classical-jazz concert held with French-Canadian singer Eva Gauthier at Aeolian Hall (New York) on 1 November 1923, band leader Paul Whiteman decided to attempt something more ambitious. He asked Gershwin to contribute a concerto-like piece for an all-jazz concert he would give in Aeolian Hall in February 1924. Whiteman became interested in featuring such an extended composition by Gershwin in the concert after he had collaborated with Gershwin in the Scandals of 1922, impressed by the original performance of the one-act opera Blue Monday, which was nevertheless a commercial failure. Gershwin declined on the grounds that, as there would certainly be need for revisions to the score, he would not have enough time to compose the new piece.
Late on the evening of January 3, at the Ambassador Billiard Parlor at Broadway and 52nd Street in Manhattan, while George Gershwin and Buddy De Sylva were playing billiards, his brother Ira Gershwin was reading the January 4 edition of the New York Tribune. An article entitled “What Is American Music?” about the Whiteman concert caught his attention, in which the final paragraph claimed that “George Gershwin is at work on a jazz concerto, Irving Berlin is writing a syncopated tone poem, and Victor Herbert is working on an American suite.”
In a phone call to Whiteman next morning, Gershwin was told that Whiteman’s rival Vincent Lopez was planning to steal the idea of his experimental concert and there was no time to lose. Gershwin was finally persuaded to compose the piece.
Since there were only five weeks left, Gershwin hastily set about composing a piece, and on the train journey to Boston, the ideas of Rhapsody in Blue came to his mind. He told his first biographer Isaac Goldberg in 1931:
It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise…. And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance.
Gershwin began his work on January 7 as dated on the original manuscript for two pianos. The piece was titled “American Rhapsody” during composition. The title Rhapsody in Blue was suggested by Ira Gershwin after his visit to a gallery exhibition of James McNeill Whistler paintings, which bear titles such as Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket and Arrangement in Grey and Black (better known as Whistler’s Mother). After a few weeks, Gershwin finished his composition and passed the score to Whiteman’s arranger Ferde Grofé, who orchestrated the piece, finishing it on February 4, only eight days before the premiere
Concerto in F is a composition by George Gershwin for solo piano and orchestra which is closer in form to a traditional concerto than the earlier jazz-influenced Rhapsody in Blue. It was written in 1925 on a commission from the conductor and director Walter Damrosch.
Damrosch had been present at the February 12, 1924 concert arranged and conducted by Paul Whiteman at Aeolian Hall in New York City titled An Experiment in Modern Music which became famous for the premiere of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, in which the composer performed the piano solo. The day after the concert, Damrosch contacted Gershwin to commission from him a full-scale piano concerto for the New York Symphony Orchestra, closer in form to a classical concerto and orchestrated by the composer.
Gershwin would later receive formal training and lessons from influential figures like Henry Cowell, Wallingford Riegger and Arnold Schoenberg in advanced composition, harmony and orchestration; however, in 1924 he had had no such training. Under the pressure of a deadline to complete the work in 1925, Gershwin bought books on theory, concerto form and orchestration and taught himself the skills needed. Because of contractual obligations for three different Broadway musicals, he was not able to begin sketching ideas until May 1925. He began the two-piano score on July 22 after returning from a trip to London, and the original drafts were entitled “New York Concerto”. The first movement was written in July, the second in August, and the third in September, much of the work being done in a practice shack at the Chautauqua Institution. This had been arranged through the Australian composer and teacher Ernest Hutcheson, who offered seclusion for Gershwin at Chautauqua, where his quarters were declared off limits to everyone until 4 p.m. daily. Thanks to this, Gershwin was able to complete the full orchestration of the concerto on November 10, 1925. Later that month, Gershwin hired a 55-piece orchestra, at his own expense, to run through his first draft at the Globe Theatre. Damrosch attended and gave advice to Gershwin, who made a few cuts and revisions.
The Concerto in F shows considerable development in Gershwin’s compositional technique, particularly because he orchestrated the entire work himself, unlike the Rhapsody in Blue which was scored by Ferde Grofé, Paul Whiteman’s section pianist and principal orchestrator. The English composer and orchestrator William Walton commented that he adored Gershwin’s orchestration of the concerto. The work calls for 2 flutes plus piccolo, 2 oboes and English horn, 2 B flat clarinets plus B flat bass clarinet (this trio being featured as the backing to the solo trumpet in the middle movement), 2 bassoons, 4 Horns in F, 3 B-flat trumpets, 3 trombones and a tuba, 3 timpani – 32″, 29″ and 26″ (one player), 3 percussionists (first player: bass drum, bells, xylophone; second player: snare drum periodically muffled and with regular and brush sticks, wood block, whip; third player: crash cymbals, suspended cymbal with sticks, triangle and gong), solo piano and strings.
This is another vinyl-rip from my record collection …
Piano Concerto In F:
The London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Hugo Rignold
Sergio Fiorentino (piano(
Rhapsody In Blue:
The Hamburg Pro Musica Orchestra conducted by George Byrd
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Piano Concert On F:
01. 1st Movement: Allegro
02. 2nd Movement: Andante Con Moto
03. 3rd Movement: Allegro Agitato (Finale)
Rhapsody In Blue:
04. Rhapsody In Blue:
Music composed by George Gershwin