Blues Rhapsody Best Jazz Concert

A plane flies across the TV screen accompanied by the famous clarinet glissando iconic to the United States Airlines, but this famous opening is taken from the notorious American classic, Rhapsody in Blue. Written by George Gershwin in 1924, this scandalous work of music was premiered at New York’s Aeolian Concert Hall on February 12th. This famous work of music was composed in five weeks while leaving behind musical footprints altering the history and creation of music in America forever. Distinguished musicians over the next century would the features of Rhapsody in Blue such as jazz within their own pieces.

While some people believe Rhapsody in Blue to be the best American jazz concerto in history, other music critics question whether it is truly a jazz symphonic creation.

Rhapsody in Blue was performed within Paul Whiteman’s program “An Experiment in Modern Music” which contained different genres of music such as jazz. In 1915, jazz became a popular style of music in the African American and lower class population.

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Jazz became its own genre for different music styles such as African American, Caribbean, and European symphonic music. Despite the popularity, this style of music was receiving among general citizens, music critics, composers, and conductors disapproved of the freedom of jazz. Paul Whiteman introduced the concert series as “a purely educational experiment” (The Nation), but the after effects of Rhapsody in Blue’s premier paved the road for jazz compositions to be played across the world.

As the story is told, George Gershwin failed to discover he was going to be performing an original piece at Aeolian Concert Hall.

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He read about his upcoming performance in the New York Herald-Tribune five weeks before the show. While he was on a train ride from New York to Boston, George was hurriedly writing the main theme of the piece to the train’s rhythm. George describes this experience as “I had already done some work on the rhapsody. It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang that is often so stimulating for a composer” (SongFacts). Once the outline of the piece was written, Ferde Grafe orchestrated the entire piece in time for the show. In the score, there were blank bars left for George to perform a piano solo. On the day of the show, there was no written piano part, but the entire music masterpiece was in the musician’s mind ready to explode into the world.

A New York Times critic, Olin Downes, was present at the premiere of Rhapsody in Blue and he described it as “The audience packed a house that could have been sold out at twice the size” (History). Rhapsody in Blue was considered an immediate success by the present crowd earning it three curtain calls. Many famous and uprising musicians such as Rachmaninoff were present at the show. Later, they went on to use Rhapsody in Blue’s structure as a basis for their musical compositions. Rhapsody in Blue was a different type of jazz piece that was never played in a prestigious concert hall. It was a truly light and playful work invoking freedom into the audience. Henrietta Straus described is as “ a new chapter to our musical history” (The Nation). Rhapsody in Blue was an unusual type of jazz changing how people view this African American rooted genre of music.

Rhapsody in Blue is considered by music critics to be its own unique genre of music that is neither classical or jazz. Most people view it as a spectacular piece that is classical with jazz melodies intertwined in an interesting and enlightening manner. European symphony music is a majority of the theme and moods of the piece with jazz rhythms creating the on the train movement. While Paul Whiteman’s band was practicing Rhapsody in Blue, the opening glissando was played by a clarinet. The clarinet player exaggerated the glissando with a jazzy tune meaning for it to be a joke, but George Gershwin was immensely pleased with the sound making it permanent. Rhapsody in Blue was originally going to be named American Rhapsody, but was quickly change when the painting “Nocturne in Blue and green of Thames at Chelsea” inspired the composer.

Many musicians who use jazz techniques and rhythms within their musical works have questioned whether it is a jazz concerto. Several fine musicians question the stability and composition of Rhapsody in Blue. They believe that it is many different ideas forced between two bars due to the reason that the work has been easily rewritten with multiple additions and cuts. For example, Leonard Bernstein said “The ‘Rhapsody’ is not a composition at all. It’s a string of separate paragraphs stuck together” (loc.gov). Despite the waves of criticism, the United States Airlines have used Rhapsody in Blue within their commercials in the 1980s. Rhapsody in Blue has changed the way music is written, played, and opened the bars of different social classes and cultures having their own one type of music. Today, music is continuing to evolve at a rapid rate changing how people view and experience the world through cultural diffusion throughout the language of music.

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Blues Rhapsody Best Jazz Concert. (2022, Jan 10). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/blues-rhapsody-best-jazz-concert-essay

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