Rhapsody in Blue

By George Gershwin
Arranged by Paul Whiteman
Composed in 1924

Gershwin composed the Rhapsody in just a few weeks in early 1924. It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé (of Grand Canyon Suite fame), and premiered in New York, in February 1924, by Paul Whiteman‘s Palais Royal Orchestra band. It had enormous popular success, and instantly catapulted Gershwin to worldwide fame.

This is a quintessentially “American” work – brash, bold and exuberant; a fusion of classical and jazz styles; a piece in which the piano is both featured soloist and very much a part of the whole ensemble.

A long, low clarinet trill and rising “glissando” scale lead into the first triplet-based theme, punctuated by syncopated rhythms in the brass and winds, repeated and developed by other sections of the orchestra and the solo piano, and interspersed by solo piano variations.

Near the middle of the piece, the classic slow “blues theme” makes its appearance in the strings, is amplified by the full orchestra, and develops into the rousing finish.