January 29, 2013

Something Wonderful: George Gershwin plays Rhapsody In Blue -- The Piano Rolls Recording

The greatest and most evocative piece of American music ever written:

"The composition came together just five weeks before the concert, during a train ride from New York to Boston. As Gershwin told his 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.
A year later Gershwin recorded a solo version of Rhapsody on two separate piano rolls for the Aeolean Company in New York. Part II, with its famous slow theme, or “Adante” (beginning at 9:07 above), followed by the piece’s bravura finale, was released to the public in May of 1925, but the longer Part I wasn’t released until January of 1927." -- From Gershwin Plays Gershwin: The Piano Version of ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ 1925

Posted by gerardvanderleun at January 29, 2013 12:43 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Tonight, one of my daughter's friends came over with a Korean exchange student who was surprised to find an American home with a piano in it.

That is sad on so many levels.

Posted by: Jewel at January 29, 2013 3:44 PM

This is what Rachmaninoff would have sounded like if he'd been born and raised in New York City.

Posted by: Jewel at January 29, 2013 5:14 PM

The Gershwin Piano Roll version of Rhapsody in Blue was used as the piano component of the jazz band version of the piece as conducted by Micheal Tilson Thomas and recorded on Columbia records in the 1970s. It is still probably available on CD and is hands down the best recorded version of Rhapsody ever made

Posted by: Jerry at January 29, 2013 8:41 PM

The creation of art--music, painting, sculpture, dance, whatever--fascinates me. Gershwin took his inspiration from the sound of the train, where most people would just hear noise. Haydn, Beethoven, and many others took theirs from walking in the country. And Mozart, like Gershwin, could visualize entire compositions in his head. Much of Mozart's music sounds as if it were written effortlessly, because it was. (Playing it, however, is another matter). I have none of these talents, but I enjoy hearing and seeing the results of those who do.

Posted by: waltj at January 30, 2013 10:35 AM

I only listen to this once a year (on my birthday) but my preferred version is the June 1924 recording 4 months after Rhapsody debuted at Aeolion Hall in Feb for Paul Whiteman's Experiment in Jazz Concert (2 pm). It was arranged by Ferde Grofe. This 9 minute version has the great Ross Gorman on clarinet and it's as close as we can get to the original performance, even cut by 6 minutes. No, I know hardly anything about it ;-)
Gershwin was one of the great geniuses of modern music AFAIC.

Posted by: bonny kate at January 30, 2013 12:02 PM

Amazing, just amazing. He puts more jazz into it than what I've heard before and plays with the tempo. Its great to hear what a composer thinks his music should be like.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at January 30, 2013 2:18 PM

I'm in awe of his talent, as a piano player every bit as much as a composer.

Posted by: pfsm at January 30, 2013 4:50 PM

Something wonderful...I loved it,we may need more.

Posted by: judy at January 30, 2013 7:48 PM

Something wonderful...I loved it,we may need more.

Posted by: judy at January 30, 2013 7:48 PM