Is "Rhapsody in Blue" Awesome?

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Most everyone here has heard it, in some way, shape or form, I'm sure. I thought it might be worth a thread. Anyways, I just picked up the "Manhattan" soundtrack at a thrift store, which has got me remembering just how much I love this piece. As a little kid, I used to listen to my Dad's beat up copy of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performing it sometime in the 50s. I remember I thought certain parts were kinda scary and sinister. I definitely associated it with 'serious music' -- and, well, I'd say it certainly is. Now, when I'm listening, it sounds by turns limber and playful, bombastic and virtuosic. Lots of fun. So, is it awesome? Does anyone know anything about how Gershwin wanted it received at the time? Is it voyeuristic fake jazz? If it is, is it still awesome? What do you think about its use in "Manhattan"?

softspool, Friday, 7 June 2013 02:04 (six years ago) Permalink

yeah it's awesome

some dude, Friday, 7 June 2013 02:04 (six years ago) Permalink

i gave up playing clarinet before i could do the opening glissando :'(

dyl, Friday, 7 June 2013 04:15 (six years ago) Permalink

I say no to being 'fake jazz' and yes to its' awesomeness. I would guess that I listen to it 6-9 times a year. It's modern and beautiful.

nicky lo-fi, Friday, 7 June 2013 11:12 (six years ago) Permalink

It is great! Copland's Piano Concerto is equally as cool imo, they make good companions.

MaresNest, Friday, 7 June 2013 11:19 (six years ago) Permalink


was also the title of Gershwin biopic starring Alan Alda's dad.

ballin' from Maine to Mexico (Dr Morbius), Friday, 7 June 2013 14:15 (six years ago) Permalink

I think those ubiquitous friendly skies commercials from my childhood really killed one of the best parts for me

i don't even have an internet (Hurting 2), Friday, 7 June 2013 14:30 (six years ago) Permalink

Does anyone know anything about how Gershwin wanted it received at the time?

From Richard Crawford's entry on Gershwin in Grove:

The work was first performed in New York’s Aeolian Hall on 12 February in a concert billed as ‘An Experiment in Modern Music’. It purported to demonstrate that the new, rhythmically vivacious dance music called jazz, which most concert musicians and critics considered beneath them, was elevated by the ‘symphonic’ arrangements in which Whiteman’s band specialized. Gershwin’s Rhapsody won both the audience’s approval and the critics’ attention. Performed repeatedly, and also recorded, the work also won renown for its composer, as a historical figure – the man who had brought ‘jazz’ into the concert hall.

Although most observers saw Rhapsody in Blue as a new departure for the young songwriter, in fact it reaffirmed Gershwin's continuing involvement with classical music. In 1915 he had begun to study harmony, counterpoint, orchestration and musical form with Kilenyi, continuing at least to 1921. His first classical piece, the Lullaby for string quartet (c1919), was apparently composed as a harmony exercise for Kilenyi. His second, a brief opera called Blue Monday, opened the second act of George White’s Scandals for 1922 but was withdrawn after its first performance. On 1 November 1923 Gershwin performed in an Aeolian Hall recital by the Canadian mezzo soprano Eva Gauthier that helped to set the stage for Whiteman’s concert less than three months later. In a programme that ranged from songs by Purcell and Bellini to works by Schoenberg, Hindemith and Bartók, Gauthier included compositions by Gershwin, Kern, Irving Berlin and Walter Donaldson, the latter group accompanied by Gershwin. The musical juxtapositions of Rhapsody in Blue had roots in a sensibility that never fully accepted a separation between popular and classical genres.

It's totally awesome btw.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Friday, 7 June 2013 14:30 (six years ago) Permalink

(12 Feb 1924)

EveningStar (Sund4r), Friday, 7 June 2013 14:31 (six years ago) Permalink

p. much the only good part of Fantasia 2000.

hashtag sizzler (Phil D.), Friday, 7 June 2013 14:47 (six years ago) Permalink

It's not really jazz, but it's not fake either. And it is awesome.

I'm not clear on the reciprocal influences between Gershwin and Ellington, but I think it's safe to say the positive reception of Rhapsody helped create an audience for Ellington's increasingly ambitious compositions. So the jazz world benefited hugely from what Gershwin did.

Brad C., Friday, 7 June 2013 14:55 (six years ago) Permalink

Sund4r, thanks for that Crawford entry. Elsewise, I'm kinda remorseful at raising the 'fake jazz' spectre itt, because I'm not sure it exactly applies. Kinda clumsy attempt at provoking discussion I guess.

I wish there was an easy way to discuss the various non-theme little bits in RiB, because there are some that just knock my socks off.

Now, I wanna see Alan Alda's dad as Gershwin, and I must check out the Copland piano concerto, which I've never knowingly heard.

softspool, Friday, 7 June 2013 23:31 (six years ago) Permalink

p. much the only good part of Fantasia 2000.

so true

is there anyone who thinks this isn't awesome?

Bathory Tub Blues (Shakey Mo Collier), Friday, 7 June 2013 23:34 (six years ago) Permalink

listening to Zubin Mehta and the NY Philharmonic's take on it for the Manhattan soundtrack now = bliss.

arctic mindbath (President of the People's Republic of Antarctica), Friday, 7 June 2013 23:39 (six years ago) Permalink

yeah, it's a really nice version, isn't it?

softspool, Friday, 7 June 2013 23:40 (six years ago) Permalink

very much so. my first introduction to it as well, so bonus points.

arctic mindbath (President of the People's Republic of Antarctica), Friday, 7 June 2013 23:41 (six years ago) Permalink

it being Rhapsody in Blue, back when I was 15 and watching all of Woody Allen's 70s films.

arctic mindbath (President of the People's Republic of Antarctica), Friday, 7 June 2013 23:41 (six years ago) Permalink

this is a good piece of music.

Treeship, Saturday, 8 June 2013 00:11 (six years ago) Permalink

two years pass...

so good. I've been listening to it a lot lately.
it's interesting the way it's not really considered a cohesive composition as a whole, more like a juxtaposition of motives that could totally be played independently from one another and still be great.
bernstein wrote some things about that. and I totally agree. actually, there are moments when I would prefer to listen to only one of the parts over the others.
I love the way he mixes elements of american music (i.e jazz) and french contemporary classical (ravel, debussy) to great effects.
another funny thing is that there are some parts in the beach boys' "smile" that are so directly linked to this (especially in "heroes & villains").

AlXTC from Paris, Friday, 31 July 2015 12:56 (three years ago) Permalink

six months pass...

brb just gonna listen to this

Soon all logins will look like this (darraghmac), Friday, 19 February 2016 00:15 (three years ago) Permalink

Uri Caine recorded his version a few years ago (which I haven't heard yet). Willem Breuker did a Gershwin project in the 80s, some of it is on youtube.

EvR, Friday, 19 February 2016 15:56 (three years ago) Permalink

two years pass...

Nice work on the piano there, George!

softspool, Sunday, 7 October 2018 05:45 (eight months ago) Permalink

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