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Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: It’s the perfect union of jazz and classical music.

In the early 1920s, Paul Whiteman was one of the most influential jazz band leaders of his time. He was always experimenting with the art form known and eventually came to George Gershwin with a novel idea: a concerto-like piece for piano and jazz ensemble. Thus was born Gershwin’s legendary classic, Rhapsody in Blue, which received its premiere in 1924. The piece, though in the traditional rhapsody form as found in classical music, contains many significant jazz elements. Saxophones and banjo are included in the scoring for the orchestra, and of course there lots of harmonic progressions and “blue notes” that give the piece its jazzy flair. Ragtime rhythms are abundant, as well as Cuban “clave” rhythms. With Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin perfectly married classical music and jazz together into a harmonious union, and the work has endured as one of the quintessential masterpieces of American music.

Music Heard On This Episode

George Gershwin (1898-1937): Rhapsody in Blue
Leonard Bernstein, p/Columbia Symphony Orchestra — Rhapsody In Blue/An American In Paris (Sony, 1990)
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album cover
George Gershwin (1898-1937): Rhapsody in Blue
Leonard Bernstein, p/Columbia Symphony Orchestra — Rhapsody In Blue/An American In Paris (Sony, 1990)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

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