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When Levant declined the finished work, Schoenberg dedicated the concerto to one of his students, Henry Clay Shriver. Arnold Schoenberg did not generally provide comments or explanations for his music; he preferred to let his compositions speak for themselves. The Piano Concerto stands out as a notable exception. In , pianist, film composer, and actor-comedian Oscar Levant studied composition with Schoenberg in Los Angeles.

Schoenberg later asked one of his former students, Eduard Steuermann, to give the premiere. He has no papers identifying who he is, and even more mysteriously, he will not speak to anyone. These memories, in the play, are represented by music; the great internal orchestra of their inner lives. Sometimes memory can be a difficult thing to express in words. The Stranger at the center of this play cannot speak, and the music allows us to understand the emotions of his experience and his tragedy. So I do know the feeling of estrangement when you are in a new cultural setting, to feel as though you have no voice, no way to be understood because there simply is no context for who you are.

My grandparents fled to India from Bangladesh in when our independence from the British severed one land into three. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Search for:. Share this: Twitter Facebook. Like this: Like Loading Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Al Jolson served to make this song Gershwin's first hit; and like Jolson it sounds as though it comes from an earlier era of blackface — or perhaps it is intended as a parody of the style.

The verse is unusual: almost a self-contained song, it is in the parallel minor to the chorus.


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But at the second phrase, Gershwin unexpectedly suggests the Dorian mode by using the majorsixth degree see Ex. The effect is both startling and expressive, and takes the song beyond the boundaries of its genre. In the chorus Gershwin exploits the raised fifth systematically. It first appears in the tenor, then moves to the melody where it becomes the crux of melodic Ex. The fact that this pitch is the one that Gershwin avoided in the verse is sophisticated to say the least.

De Sylva. This simple fox-trot was one of the few early songs that Gershwin included in his Songbook Its stepwise melodic line and harmonic progression are very close to "But Not For Me," also of Its simplicity is the key to its freshness. The melody of the chorus is completely diatonic, inflected by carefully limited chromaticism in the accompaniment. The fourth stanza is a give-away to the author's identity: "The movies he must avoid; he'll know his Nietzsche and Freud. It is a rhythm song, but lighter than "Swanee. The song only becomes arty in its closing C section, which is stretched to sixteen bars and ends on an untypical, theatrical high note.

A classic fox-trot, perhaps the model for the one in Ravel's LyEnfant et les sortileges. Rhythmically the chorus displays the double metric scheme essential to the fox-trot: the melody is in a slow two, while the accompaniment bounces along in four. The carping repeated notes of the verse are a set43 Rhapsody in Blue up for their transformation for the "no, no, no, no, no" in the chorus. But the song stands out for a simple harmonic device.

While the melody emphasizes the tonic and dominant of this scale, the harmony places the song in F major. The song does not sound polytonal though it may have suggested the idea of a bitonal fox-trot to Ravel , but it is composed on bitonal principals. Oscar Levant described the song as "Frenchy. De Sylva and Ira Gershwin. Basically it is just another dance-step plugging number. The verse steals shamelessly from "Ballin' the Jack," but compounds its chromaticism see Ex. The chorus, by contrast, is a bar blues, or rather a hybrid blues pop-tune in AA'BA" form.

The overt bluesiness of the song was considered sensational at the time; but what was really new was the combination of the blues scale with Broadway sassiness; the lyrics of the song have nothing to do with the blues. Wilder finds it "stiffly contrived and synthetic",25 words which might also be applied to parts of the Rhapsody. Blue Monday By , Gershwin had defined the elements of his style and begun a synthesis; all that remained was an attempt at larger classical forms. His first try, Blue Monday, was ambitious, but a disaster.

Why ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is an American classic

The action is a ridiculous piece of verismo, Pagliacci on th Street, and although the characters are black we could just as easily be in Naples or in the Yiddish theaters of the Lower East Side. It is still hard to tell if it was meant to be taken straight, or as a parody. Most of the critics howled with derision: "It is the most dismal, stupid and incredible black-face sketch that has probably 44 Ingredients Ex.

It is hard to tell from the reviews, though, whether critics found the Harlem setting itself offensive, or whether they were put off by Gershwin and De Sylva's crude treatment of it. The published score shows many signs of sanitization; a recent recording drops all derogatory racial references from the lyrics. Whiteman gave Blue Monday a concert performance in with a new jazzier scoring by Grofe, which did not improve its critical reception.

He also makes frequent use of modulating sequences up a third, for instance at the very opening of the opera. As in the Rhapsody, Gershwin evokes classical practice by suspending the regular beat. In Blue Monday the classical moments are "recitatives"; in the Rhapsody they are cadenzas. And as in the Rhapsody these classical devices seem to be drawn from a generic notion of the classics rather than from actual works.

Blue Monday gives no evidence that Gershwin or De Sylva had ever seen an opera, but Italian opera belonged as much to the world of popular culture as to the opera house, as the intentional travesties by the Marx Brothers and Sid Caesar would show. Gershwin and the classics Gershwin studied classical piano formally though never full time from to , when his teacher Charles Hambitzer died in the flu epidemic.

He never recorded any classical piano pieces, and his compositions are remarkably free of classical echoes. When he was commissioned to compose a concerto he said that he looked up the form in a musical dictionary - evidence if it is true that he never encountered the concerto literature as a player. According to legend, he was first attracted to classical music at the age of six: "I stood outside a penny arcade [on th Street] listening to an automatic piano leaping through Rubinstein's Melody in F. The peculiar jumps in the music held me rooted.

It is also said that Gershwin could play the piano even before his family acquired one in ; he soon could play the William Tell Overture — though in what arrangement is not clear. He began studies with Hambitzer in and started keeping a musical scrapbook, mainly filled with clippings from The Etude. Hambitzer introduced Gershwin to the music of Liszt, Chopin and Debussy, and made Gershwin "harmony conscious.

Charles Schwartz has written that the Kilenyi notebooks reveal that Gershwin's harmony lessons were of the most elementary kind, and "do not suggest that Gershwin had any experience with the intricacies of late nineteenth-century chromatic harmony. It is clear that Gershwin's musical education was haphazard at best; but that classical music was undoubtedly part of Gershwin's cultural birthright: classics were played in arcades and schoolyards; reputable teachers could be found even in rough neighborhoods; libraries and concert halls were a subway ride away.

Gershwin liked to present himself, especially to other composers, as a primitive, but it was a half-truth. While he never developed the technique to be a classical pianist, and never received the kind of intense academic training Boulanger would give young Americans in Paris, he was a voracious listener in a city that was full of music, and would continue to seek out new musical experiences all his life - whether in going to hear the New York premiere of Wozzeck in or seeking out the young Art Tatum.

Gershwin absorbed the classics on his own terms. He kept them at a distance - listening but not memorizing, studying but not mastering. It is as though if he knew that he had to defend himself against their influence in order to preserve his own originality. Whiteman, Grofe: symphonic jazz The Man in the Street gained his knowledge of jazz from the symphonic perversions of Paul Whiteman which, in attempting to make jazz respectable, deprived it of all validity.

The soaring strings souped up the texture, the chromatic sequences inflated the feeling, the bulging brass elephantized the sonority, until the result was an exact equivalent for the "substitute living" of the worst aspects of Hollywood. There is in the best Whiteman performances a feeling and a personal sound as unique in its way as Ellington's or Basie's. It was just not based on a jazz conception. Yet as the extracts above indicate, he remains controversial.

Disparagement of Whiteman, and a sense that his was a less-than-authentic version of the real jazz, may be traced to Darius Milhaud: The jazz orchestra of the Hotel Brunswick was conducted by a young violinist called Reissmann [Leo Reisman? A white violinist who was the leader of the "string quartet of dance orchestras" and was a friend of Gershwin's].

It made a contrast to Paul Whiteman's lively orchestra, which I had heard a few days before in New York and which had the precision of an elegant, well-oiled machine, a sort of Rolls-Royce of dance music, but whose atmosphere remained entirely of the world. Unfortunately, most reconstructions of Whiteman's charts sound like an old Chevy. To white observers of the period, even those familiar with AfricanAmerican music, there was no doubt that Whiteman's band was representative of jazz.

Olin Downes, in his review of the Aeolian Hall concert, captured the exotic impact of the band's performances: They have a technic of their own. They play with an abandon equalled only by that race of born musicians - the American Negro, who has surely contributed fundamentally to this art which can neither be frowned nor sneered away. They did not play like an army going through ordered manoeuvres, but like the melomaniacs they are, bitten by rhythms that would have twiddled the toes of St.

According to Collier, some time after Grofe began to 48 Ingredients work with a San Francisco dance band led by Art Hickman: "It may have been Hickman who decided to build his band around a choir of saxophones, novelty instruments then having a considerable vogue, but it was undoubtedly Grofe who worked out the system of playing off other instruments in the orchestra against the saxophones in a vaguely contrapuntal fashion.

Whiteman soon began to refer to this method of scoring as "symphonic jazz. The main difference in early was the far greater complexity of Whiteman's arrangements, the breadth of the Whiteman repertory and the polish of Whiteman's performances a quality often viewed by jazz critics with suspicion even when it appears in bands, like Lunceford's, with impeccable jazz credentials. To understand the impact of the "Experiment," however, we need to get beyond the polemics and listen to Whiteman's Band.

Considering how much Whiteman recorded there is surprisingly little available today, and the "hipper" record shops refuse to put them in the jazz section. The collection does not give a good representation of jazz performances by the Whiteman Band: there are no tracks with Trumbauer or Beiderbecke, such as the classic "Changes," and only one with Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys.

But this emphasis on non-jazz repertory reflects the balance of the band's repertory. It was not a jazz band, but a pops-and-dance band. The increasingly pretentious modernistic numbers of the later years sound like attempts to recapture the glory that was Rhapsody in Blue. They remix the same ingredients of jazz slightly updated , modernist harmonies and lush romantic melodies. Although there are a number of remarkable instrumental solos, most notably Wilbur Hall's trombone pyrotechnics on "Nola," there are no jazz solos among these tracks.

Indeed, very little of this repertory is related to jazz. But all of it is played with an unfailing precision and stylishness. Whiteman provided a model of cultural synthesis, or at least musical homogenization. At its worst this approach trivialized everything it touched; at its best it expanded the range of musical experiences available to an unsophisticated mass audience. For many listeners, Whiteman's music opened the door to jazz and to the classics.

But taken in large doses the slickness begins to pall. The recorded Whiteman legacy is interesting as an archive of superb performances of forgettable music with one big exception. Inception: the Aeolian Hall concert Thus the Livery Stable Blues was introduced apologetically as an example of the depraved past from which modern jazz has risen. The apology is herewith indignantly rejected, for this is a glorious piece of impudence, much better in its unbuttoned jocosity and Rabelaisian laughter than other and more polite compositions that came later. The program was hardly experimental.

Aside from Gershwin's Rhapsody, it consisted of entirely familiar material, the only innovation being its concert-hall setting. It clearly was not modern music of the kind that New Yorkers had only recently heard. Critics were still reeling from the local premieres of Le sacre du printemps, Herzgewdchse and Octandre.

Most of Whiteman's concert consisted of a series of fox-trots which the band could have played in its usual dance-hall setting. This normal stylistic range was only slightly broadened by the presence of a couple of comedy numbers and Victor Herbert's Suite of Serenades, a new work based on old materials by a composer who was already old-fashioned. The concert seems in retrospect to have been a pretentious showcase for a successful dance band.

Yet the audience, much of which was drawn from the world of classical music, and many of the critics as well, took a good deal of it seriously. They wanted to believe the fact - or at least entertain the notion - that there was an alternative modern music to the outrages of, say, Varese, who according to one critic caused "peaceful lovers of music to scream out their agony, to arouse angry emotion and tempt men to retire to the back of the theater and perform tympanal concertos on each Rhapsody in Blue other's faces.

Attributes of jazz which later critics consider essential to its identity and development, such as improvisation and the blues, and even swing, were not as clearly evident in as they would be a few years later largely through the innovative and influential playing of Louis Armstrong. Much of the repertory played by jazz bands and stride pianists in New York at the time was fully composed and based on ragtime, not the blues.

Even the saxophone had not yet attained its central role as a jazz instrument or its modern jazz sonority. Styles of sax playing ranged from the slap-tongue technique of early Coleman Hawkins to the lyrical C-melody sound of Frankie Trumbauer. And so it was not necessarily opportunism and showmanship that led Paul Whiteman to attempt to push jazz into a new form, soon dubbed symphonic jazz or "symphonized syncopation. Imagine what a concert purporting to survey the history of rock and roll would have sounded like in, say, Here was another apparently crude and wildly popular music with familiar and disreputable roots boogie-woogie, race records, country music and an unclear future.

Could a prescient band leader have predicted the British invasion? Whiteman was, in his time, more recklessly prophetic than Leonard Bernstein, who was still explaining the origins of jazz to the classical audience in the mid-fifties and would not acknowledge rock until the post-Beatles late sixties. Gershwin and Whiteman had collaborated before the Rhapsody. Whiteman recorded Gershwin's "South Sea Island" in In March Whiteman made a triumphant tour of England, where his band played for the revue Brighter London, and for small private parties given by Lord and Lady Mountbatten.

On their return to America they were greeted with a well-orchestrated hero's welcome: Whiteman was crowned "King of Syncopation" at the Waldorf.

Theme from Rhapsody in Blue

Whiteman Inception: the Aeolian Hall concert immediately began to plan a major concert for the band. Deems Taylor, writing in the World, reported that: "the singer reappeared, followed by a tall, black-haired young man who was far from possessing the icy aplomb of those to whom playing on the platform is an old story.

He bore under his arm a small bundle of sheet music with lurid black and yellow covers. The audience began to show signs of relaxation; this promised to be amusing Young Mr. Gershwin began to do mysterious and fascinating rhythmic and contrapuntal stunts with the accompaniment. Goldberg suspects that: "Whiteman, who, after all, had received a symphonic training, felt more or less consciously a need for revindication. He wanted to justify jazz to the ways of the highbrows. Grofe's rough score for the orchestration is dated 4 February Whether it was composed in ten days or three weeks Gershwin's own accounts varied - the Rhapsody was not over rehearsed.

Whiteman announced his "Experiment" with a well-calculated series of promotional mixed signals. The pretentious hype for what was, after all, a dance band, might well portend a musical "emancipation" fitting for Lincoln's birthday, or it might all be a tongue-in-cheek excuse for some safe slumming. Highbrows and lowbrows lined up for tickets in the snow. Osgood this group became Gershwin's supporters in the popular press and also the novelist Fannie Hurst and Ernest Bloch, the only certifiably modernist composer in attendance.

Like other educators of American musical taste, Whiteman played many contradictory roles. He was a sophisticate and a lowlife, a Westerner who epitomized New York, a creator and exploiter, a classically trained violinist who functioned more as a manager and promoter than as a musician. He was called "King of Jazz" more, perhaps, for his royal appearance than his musical abilities - he looked like a playing-card king.

And yet his orchestra demonstrated a kind of genius. Olin Downes captured Whiteman memorably: "He does not conduct. He trembles, wabbles, quivers - a piece of jazz jelly, conducting the orchestra with the back of the trouser of the right leg, and the face of a mandarin the while. A pre-concert lecture assured warned? Taken at face value, Whiteman's "Experiment" had a reasonable hypothesis: jazz had made tremendous strides over the decade since its 54 Inception: the Aeolian Hall concert beginnings, due to the "art of scoring.

The use of folk materials by European composers would have established a precedent for transforming the raw into the cooked, but it was not clear that this model of transformation would apply to jazz. Even some classical critics protested that much of Whiteman's artistry came at the expense of "hot" jazz qualities. Jazz arrangers of the future would seek to find a more idiomatic balance between composition and improvisation, discipline and swing - but that was yet to come. We can judge the "Experiment" for ourselves thanks to two recent reconstructions.

The paired numbers were supposed to contrast the old and the new, but the paradoxical effect, as Olin Downes 55 Rhapsody in Blue put it, was to contrast the "Rabelaisian" with the "polite. It showed that respectable musicians could get down and dirty - and still remain respectable. It is a primitive novelty that advertises its own crudeness, a bar blues repeated over and over without variations but with carefully planted barnyard breaks. It also displays the typical "gothic" texture of New Orleans jazz, with clarinet, trumpet and trombone pursuing independent lines against the additional overlay of barrelhouse piano and drums.

The animal sounds are a kind of metaphor for the musical confusion - but also explain it away. The absence of an obvious melody in "Livery Stable Blues" made it the perfect set-up for "Mama Loves Papa," a hit tune of the season. While we may be inclined to join Olin Downes in dismissing it as "polite," the arrangement presumably by Grofe demonstrated all the virtues of the Whiteman band: disciplined ensemble, a danceable beat, stylish harmonies and constantly changing textures.

The trombone and trumpet solos, while hardly scorching, are respectable early examples of paraphrase improvisation. It may not swing, but one can hear the tune. Through this stunt Whiteman was showing off the doubling skills that were essential to the stylistic range of the band. Note that both of these numbers, while burlesques, also tipped their hats to the audience's presumed knowledge of the classics. It is an exemplary fox-trot.

The melody is smooth and square, but the rhythm section gives it a double-time bounce. It is probably this ambiguous rhythmic effect - at once naughty and nice that made the piece seem like a breakthrough at the time of its appearance. Whiteman never recorded a "true form" version of the song I assume that the jazz treatment was his recorded version , so we cannot tell what contrast was offered.

It is interesting to compare Whiteman's recording of "Limehouse Blues" with Fletcher Henderson's "Shanghai Shuffle" recordings from later in Despite the presence of Louis Armstrong, one modern critic writes: "The spongy saxophones and brittle trumpet trios have dated badly, and can be accepted only through the condescension of nostalgia. Whiteman's arrangement, by contrast, is anything but soggy, but it also 57 Rhapsody in Blue never takes off the way the Henderson does with Armstrong's entrance.

It begins with a sweet, straight presentation of the tune for a trio of saxophones a la Guy Lombardo , jumps to the minor for what Maurice Peress terms "a klezmorim chorus. Whatever the aesthetic of the result, the amount and range of cultural information it contains is impressive. Perhaps Confrey lacked a publicity machine. But Confrey's fame, as well as his lack of aesthetic ambition, may have weighed against him.

His "novelty" music was already familiar and he offered nothing novel either to thrill-seekers in the audience, or critics seeking a new American music. Confrey's solos also fit uncomfortably in an "orchestral" program. The music sprang from the piano and suffered in translation. Recordings by Confrey reveal that he was a superb pianist, the equal of Gershwin in flair and swing.

But Confrey was also a one-trick pony even though the trick was remarkable and had an enormous influence. Gershwin the pianist did not eclipse Confrey - but Gershwin the composer did so decisively.

George Gershwin and his Rhapsody in Blue by Tengis D on Prezi

Thornton Hagert says that it "seems to characterize more than any other piece on the program, the pretensions to which Whiteman and Grofe so often succumbed throughout their association. It was the sort of thing which exasperated both serious critics and jazz fanciers to the point that they were often blinded to Whiteman's virtues. The connections between Russian and American music, however, were strong at the time. Berlin, Gershwin and Copland descended from Russian-Jewish ancestry and their taste in classical music was Russo-French. Even the musically illiterate Berlin named RimskyKorsakov, Borodin and Musorgsky as his favorite composers.

Heifetz played Gershwin; Koussevitsky sponsored Copland. Whiteman apparently never asked Berlin's permission before he announced that the experiment would feature a new Berlin composition. Since none was forthcoming, Grofe arranged a suite of Berlin hits; the arrangements have not survived and were not recorded. Herbert represented the world of operetta. Though it is often said that the musical comedies of the twenties made operetta oldfashioned, the two genres co-existed well into the fifties.

The stylish harmonies and orchestrations of Herbert's four miniatures demonstrate how the exoticism of operetta served as a means of absorbing up-to-date classical devices into popular music. Herbert's Suite, however, also shows why the audience was losing patience by the time Ross Gorman began his glissando and electrified the house. After "Livery Stable Blues", the program had drifted further and further from jazz. The novelty of this trick must have been wearing thin, and the "standard selections" themselves were rather faded, though Friml's Chansonette would return as "Donkey Serenade" in All the elements of a new music were there: jazz rhythms and colors, pop tunes, 60 Inception: the Aeolian Hall concert modern harmonies, virtuosic instrumental playing, lowdown fun and high-toned uplift.

But only Gershwin produced a synthesis which placed these elements in a new relation. The concerto format of the Rhapsody itself introduced a dynamic element which had been missing. Gershwin created more than a piece of music, he created a dramatic persona. The audience did not just hear the product of musical cross-fertilization; in the interaction of the piano solo, played primarily in a romantic, rubato style which had appeared nowhere else in the program, with the carefully selected jazz antics of Whiteman's musicians, the audience witnessed the birth of a new cultural sensibility.

Postscript The Aeolian Hall "Experiment," instead of showing that melodious music had replaced "hot" jazz, demonstrated that one band could do it all: a large ensemble of skilled, literate musicians could play hot and sweet music with equal panache. It was also clear that the audience preferred its jazz "hot" rather than "melodious. When he took the concert on a national tour, beginning in May, Whiteman played down the condescending denigration of the "true forms of jazz. Two white grand pianos flanked the drummer's elaborate traps at the back of the stage, 61 Rhapsody in Blue and behind them all was a glittering metallic curtain with huge vermilion floral designs.

To cap it all the stage was lighted as it had been at Aeolian Hall with shifting lights of green, yellow, pink, and blue. The glitzy decor of the concert, dismissed by some as circus-like, is yet another indication that Whiteman was operating in the mixed tradition of the American pops and appreciation concert, rather than the realms of serious music which was always more austere, or jazz which was often, as at the Cotton Club, far racier. After the sold-out and ecstatically received tour the orchestra returned to New York in June where it recorded the Rhapsody in Blue and Suite ofSerenades - and the Meditation from Massenet's Thais.

The recording of the Rhapsody sold a million copies.

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue

According to David Ewen, "the royalties from the sale of sheet music, records, and other subsidiary rights gathered more than a quarter of a million dollars in a decade. The Rhapsody made Gershwin a rich man. The success of the Rhapsody altered his band's identity. The Rhapsody became its theme song. It was now as much a jazz band as a dance band, and Whiteman soon filled his orchestra with some of the finest jazz instrumentalists and singers in the country, including Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Bing Crosby and Mildred Bailey.

Whiteman and Grofe whose Grand Canyon Suite nearly equaled the Rhapsody in popularity for decades remained significant figures in American music, if not in jazz, through the fifties. But the songs do not need these period recreations. The Rhapsody', too, has been reinvigorated by the jazz performances of Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and Marcus Roberts; but the inhibitions of "classical" music limit the possibilities of interpretation.

These inhibitions have only increased as the Rhapsody has attained the stature of a concert classic, and with the rise of the notion of "authentic" performance. Today the printed scores, and particularly the "original" version, maintain an unchallenged tyranny. Performers feel obliged to invoke either the letter of the score or the spirit of the age to justify renditions which in fact do not vary all that much.

Michel Camilo

Listeners often feel disappointed no matter what the technical polish or stylistic scholarship of the performers. Their uneasiness springs from the unclassical nature of the work itself. The musical style of the Rhapsody does not come out of the concert hall; it was imported into it from Broadway. Unlike contemporary concertos by Prokofiev, Ravel, Stravinsky or Bartok, none of which feels like period pieces yet , the Rhapsody cannot be played as written. Performers either have to reconstruct an evanescent "authentic" style of performance, or have the courage to imagine a new one.

Why should the Rhapsody be locked in a time capsule? The performance history of Rhapsody in Blue spans three generations. During Gershwin's lifetime it was a piece of contemporary music closely associated with the performance styles of its original creators: Gershwin, Whiteman and Grofe. After Gershwin's death it soon acquired the status of a popular classic. This "pops" period overlaps with the Rhapsody in Blue Second World War and the latter part of the standard-tune era when the sound of jazz shaped America's popular music.

In the s, the Rhapsody turned into a period piece, a remnant of the Jazz Age. Jazz itself seemed moribund; rock had taken its place as popular music. But at the same time the notion of authentic performance practice in early music led to a revival of the original version of the Rhapsody, free of all cuts. In less than seventy years the Rhapsody has evolved from an emblem of the future, to a relic of the past. Although we can point to many outside forces to explain the changes in performance practice, the multifaceted nature of the Rhapsody itself has spurred these changes.

Is it a jazz chart, a Broadway medley or a romantic concerto? It partakes of all three genres and an interpreter's choice of emphasis will affect the balance of elements. There are two polar conceptions of the score: as a classical text which needs to be played "as written" according to the "best" sources; or as a jazz text which serves as a framework for improvisation. The first approach descends from Gershwin's own recordings and piano rolls; the second from performances by Whiteman of his "theme song.


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Gershwin's performances Gershwin recorded the Rhapsody twice with Whiteman. An acoustic recording was made in June Victor ; an electrostatic recording was made in April , using Grofe's expanded orchestration of Victor The extant recording of the Andante and finale dates from May The first half of the Rhapsody was issued in Kimball and Simon believe that both rolls date from They are cut, while the rolls are complete - indeed they are more than complete since they include both the piano and orchestra parts.

At many points it seems obvious that passages have been overdubbed to include both parts. The piano-roll performance corresponds exactly to the twopiano four-hand score, except for the addition of Ross Gorman's ornamentation in bar 4 which is printed in the piano solo edition and a few 64 Interpretations details of rubato. This complete but monochromatic version of the Rhapsody sounds more unified than the versions with orchestra, even though Gershwin's performance differentiates between the solo and tutti passages.

Two aspects of the piano roll conflict with later practice: the solo at rehearsal 25 is taken at a brisk tempo, and there are only a few, tantalizing, instances of swung eighth notes. In general, the rhythmic style of the performance is alternatively syncopated or rubato, but not swinging. The Love theme begins in four then accelerates; it is played in a consistently hyper-romantic style.

Gershwin does not jazz the piece up. The two recordings are far more polyvocal. By highlighting the most colorful jazz personalities in the Whiteman band - Gorman with his bent tones and slap-tonguing, Siegrist with his wa-wa trumpet and Maxon with his tail-gate, jazz-muted trombone - Grofe made the piece sound like a collaboration. The recording lasts just under nine minutes, due to major cuts in the scherzando and finale. This gives the impression of a piece with just two themes, both defined by the band in jazz style and then rendered classically by the piano.

The E-major theme is played as a fox-trot, in strict tempo until six bars before rehearsal 31 when the counter-melody is allowed to dominate. The recording is the originator of what has become known as the "Hollywood Bowl" style of performance. Although it is slightly faster than the recording and has identical cuts it seems much more ponderous. The jazz licks sound like fading mementos; beginning with the clarinet glissando, they are performed portentously. The accompaniment barely sounds like a jazz band, but more like a Broadway pit orchestra. The one coherent remainder of the scherzo, the piano solo of the "Stride" theme, now sounds jazzier than anything else in the piece.

The stylistic balance of the piece has shifted: the piano is now the jazz protagonist. The E-major theme begins fox-trot style and then is shmaltzed up to such a degree that Gershwin has to rush his own solo to make it fit on the recording. The pops Rhapsody After Gershwin's death his concert pieces became the most frequently performed works of any American composer.

After the forties, Gershwin began to lose out to Copland and Barber in the classical repertory, and his music drifted to the pops concert, summer festival repertory. As time went on the performance style of the piece seemed to become increasingly problematic. We can observe this by comparing the popular recordings by Levant, Wild and Bernstein. Oscar Levant was the most devoted of Gershwin's followers; he played the roles of parasite and court jester to Gershwin's genius - as his memoirs show.

His recording with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra is a classic — or rather, is classicized. Levant's interpretation reproduces Gershwin's, and the wind players of the orchestra seem to have studied the Whiteman recordings closely. He respects the printed score except for one cut, which became canonical: the Trio. And yet the recording reveals a new aspect of the work. The Love theme ripens as it is played by the Philadelphia's famously rich strings, and a pretty tune turns into a major event in the listener's emotional history.

The rhythm has also changed, with an exact doubling of the tempo at the third bar. The doubled speed only intensifies the romanticism of the counter-melody. The Russian heritage is now clear: the theme sounds more like Rakhmaninov than Lombardo. The Rhapsody as a whole had now shed almost all traces of jazz, except for a few details from the original recording preserved in wax. Other pianists were less willing than Levant to adhere to Gershwin's style.

Bernstein and Wild took the piece in two different directions. The Rhapsody is played uncut in its garb.