Work: Rhapsody in Blue
About This Work
George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue for piano and orchestra had been the talk of New York ever since its premiere at Aeolian Hall on February 12, 1924. Gershwin's publisher Harms Inc. (now part of Warner-Chappell) was anxious to capitalize on its
success, and at first it brought out Rhapsody in Blue in a 21-part version for theater orchestra arranged by Ferde Grofé. Harms also produced an edition similar in form (if not identical in content) to Gershwin's original manuscript, scored for solo piano with a second piano part that represented a reduction of the orchestral parts. Also, by the end of 1924, Harms had published what it called the "Little Rhapsody in Blue," a suite of the main themes arranged for easy piano by Honora Klarmann. But what was clearly needed was a good solo piano version of the work. However, Gershwin felt that a solo piano version of Rhapsody in Blue would prove unplayable, and the closest he got to creating one himself was in the form of two Aeolian piano rolls of the work made in 1925 and 1927 with the help of Frank Milne, an expert roll editor. In 1927, Harms did finally publish a solo piano version of Rhapsody in Blue created by one of its staff arrangers. As Gershwin had predicted, it was rather difficult to play, but proved hugely successful commercially. It wasn't until 1940, after Gershwin's untimely demise, that Harms' successor company Warner Bros. Music engaged arranger Herman Wasserman to create a simplified solo piano version playable by most mortals, and this is the edition one is most likely to encounter inside the piano benches of students and amateurs. In 1996, Warner-Chappell added yet another chapter to this story by publishing what you might call a "complification" of Rhapsody in Blue edited by pianist Alicia Zizzo. This is a solo piano version that includes every note of music Gershwin wrote down relating to Rhapsody in Blue, including cut material and variant ideas. While this edition has been received only lukewarmly by many within Gershwin's critical camp, it is interesting to see where the composer may have gone with Rhapsody in Blue under different circumstances.
-- Uncle Dave Lewis, All Music Guide
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