31 Mar 2022

GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue

From Music Alive, 8:02 pm on 31 March 2022

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

NZSO Sessions 2022: Rhapsody Israeli-born conductor and pianist Asher Fisch leads the NZSO in a vibrant programme including Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' and 'American in Paris', Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition', and Dvořák's 'Carnival Overture'. Recorded in the Michael Fowler Centre, in March 2022.

Conductor Asher Fisch at the piano

Conductor Asher Fisch at the piano Photo: Latitude Creative

Early in 1924, George’s brother and lyricist Ira happened to read an announcement advertising “an experiment in modern music” given by the bandleader and self-styled King of Jazz, Paul Whiteman.  What surprised him most was that the concert was advertised as including a ‘jazz concerto’ by George Gershwin!  George obligingly dashed off a piece in three weeks, just in time for the concert, it was hastily scored by Whiteman’s arranger Ferde Grofé, and given the title Rhapsody in Blue by Ira.

The concert was attended by several notable classical musicians, including Fritz Kreisler, Sergei Rachmaninov, Jascha Heifetz and Leopold Stokowski, as well as theatre-goers and curiosity seekers, most of whom had become restless during the course of the long evening.  Gershwin’s work was placed 25th on the programme – second to last – and finally made the audience sit up!  The famous music critic for the New York Times, Olin Downes, wrote:  “The audience was stirred, and many a hardened concert-goer excited with the sensation of a new talent finding its voice”.

Leonard Bernstein wrote of the piece: “The themes, or tunes, or whatever you want to call them, in the Rhapsody are terrific, God-given… the rhythms are always right.  The quality is always there, just as it is in his best show tunes.”

David Houston, producer
Darryl Stack, engineer