Thursday, August 04, 2011

Rapture from a Rhapsody

Rhapsody in Blue was written by George Gershwin in 1924, drawing together classical piano and jazz in response to a request by Paul Whiteman for a jazz concerto. At its premier Gershwin himself played the piano solo with Whiteman’s jazz band playing the orchestration written by Ferde Grofe.

For years I have owned the piano music, always concluding it was too difficult for me despite the fact that I am so totally drawn into every subtlety of the piece. I have yet to get beyond page 8 of 31, but I’m biting off a little more each day and playing it way under tempo.

Why does this piece speak to me so clearly? It’s the jazz chords and the blues scales that stir something deep in my soul. I love the fact that the mood is constantly shifting, much as mine is. I love the near misses that come around. I love the catchy rhythms. And I love the broad chords of the theme that comes back in various forms.

By my playing the piece as a piano solo, the listener is robbed of the famous opening trill and glissando otherwise played by a solo clarinet. But not having an orchestra or even a band at my disposal, this is a necessary tradeoff I must accept.

I may actually do it this time. I will at least have a lot of pleasurable practice hours as I try.


Blogger bozoette said...

Rhapsody in Blue is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. Have fun with it!

10:24 AM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

Rhapsody in Blue is one of those compositions that will live on for eternity because it is a great piece of music with universal appeal.

Have you seen Paul Whiteman's "music video" for Rhapsody in Blue? It is really fantastic. The actual music starts about 2 minutes in.

Here's the link:

11:43 AM  
Blogger e said...

This is a project that sounds right up your street. I first learned about Gershwin in fifth grade. I wrote a report about his music and Rhapsody in Blue was the piece I liked best.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Steve Reed said...

How fun to take on something so challenging! I had no idea it was even possible to play it as a piano solo. I always think of it as an orchestral piece.

2:02 AM  

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