Rhapsody in Blue

The Worlds of Rhapsody in Blue:  George Gershwin and the Making of an American Classic

Culminating in a triumphant performance of the work itself, this solo piano recital celebrates the diverse styles that came together to form Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in 1924.

The program begins with an exploration of the European styles of late romanticism, impressionism, and primitivism, and moves to American music in the years immediately preceding the composition of the Rhapsody focusing on ragtime, jazz, novelty piano, and, of course, the blues.   The recital powerfully demonstrates the genius of Gershwin, who was able to take the disparate stylistic strands of his culture and effortlessly weave them into an integrated masterpiece, long regarded as the ultimate musical expression of the Jazz Age.

Works by Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Bartók, W. C. Handy, James P. Johnson, Artie Matthews, Zez Confrey, and of course Gershwin himself.  What emerges is a deepened understanding of, and appreciation for, Gershwin’s creative process and the culture in which he lived.

The recital is suitable both for those already familiar with Gershwin’s musical world, and those new to it.

Two excerpts from the program:

1. Zez Confrey’s “Kitten on the Keys” (1921), a prime example of the “Novelty Piano” style that profoundly influenced Gershwin’s keyboard approach:

2.  And here is Rhapsody in Blue itself in a performance with Dr. Muir as a sol0ist with the Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestera conducted by Kathleen Beckmann:

Length: Standard version, c. 60 minutes.  Full version, c. 90 minutes including intermission.

Typical Program 

Part 1.  Europe
Sergei Rachmaninoff – Prelude in C# Minor Op. 3, No. 2 (1892)
Christian Sinding – The Rustle of Spring , Op. 32, No. 3 (1896)
Debussy – La cathédrale engloutie (1910)
Béla Bartók – Allegro Barbaro (1911)
Part 2. America
Artie Matthews – Pastime Rag #2 (1920)
Zez Confrey –  Kitten on the Keys (1921)
W. C. Handy – St. Louis Blues (1914)
Baltimore Blues – Eubie Blake (1918)
Alligator Crawl – Fats Waller (1927)
Part 3. Rhapsody in Blue (1924)
Complete performance of the solo piano arrangement.