"Rhapsody in blue"

Gershwin’s iconic RHAPSODY IN BLUE (Rhapsody in Blues Style) , popularly known as Rhapsody in Blues, was commissioned to the young composer on 5 January 1924 by the leader of a famous jazz ensemble, Paul Whiteman, as a kind of experiment to create a new musical style combining classical music and jazz elements. Only a few weeks later the work was completed. The composer intended to call it American Rhapsody, but the now-famous  revised title Rhapsody in Blue was suggested by his brother, Ira Gershwin after their  visit to a gallery exhibition of James McNeill Whistler paintings, which had titles such as Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket and Arrangement in Grey and Black. Originally scored for two pianos, the Rhapsody was orchestrated in 1924 for piano and jazz ensemble by the European-trained professional musician Ferdinand Grofé, who worked for Whiteman and two years later completed the now-famous version for piano and symphony orchestra.

The Rhapsody was premiered by the composer with the accompaniment of Paul Whiteman’s Palais Royal Orchestra on 12 February 1924 in New York at a concert entitled Experiment in Modern Music. Many influential figures of the era were present, including  Walter Damrosch, Igor Stravinsky, Fritz Kreisler, Leopold Stokowski, John Philip Sousa to name a few. The enormous success revealed Gershwin’s unique talent and immediately made him famous, and the work ranks among the most popular American works performed and recorded around the world. By the end of 1927, Whiteman’s orchestra had performed it 84 times, and recordings of these concerts had been published in millions. The American Heritage  magazine noted that the initial intonation in the clarinet’s glissando is as recognizable to the audience as the theme of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Perceived as a musical portrait of early twentieth-century America, the Rhapsody has been played at major public events and has been featured in numerous film productions, including Woody Allen’s Manhattan, Walt Disney’s Fantasia 2000, The Great Gatsby, and many others.

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