Gershwin's <i>Rhapsody in Blue</i>

Maurice Peress

in Dvorák to Duke Ellington

Published in print April 2004 | ISBN: 9780195098228
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199869817 | DOI:
Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue

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This chapter re-examines the circumstances and events leading up to Paul Whiteman's celebrated historic Aeolian Hall “Experiment in Modern Music”, at which was premiered Gershwin's seminal jazz inspired work, the “Rhapsody in Blue”. The public and most critics were ecstatic; the chapter offers insights as to why some euro-centric music critics remained deeply divided for generations. It then details Whiteman's respect and passion for jazz, and for Ellington; and the role of skilled arrangers. The challenges faced by the author in recreating the Aeolian Hall event “same day, same hour, same block, sixty years later”, are described. Sleuthing out the scores and parts; assembling a replica band that included several unusual instruments such as hecklephone, sopranino saxophone, a serious slide whistle and 1920's drum kit; and relearning how to play ragtime style are explained. The recreated concert sets off a media storm, triumph and is repeated in cities elsewhere starting in Rome, Italy. The chapter finishes with a rethinking of the whole event as but a part of a very rich and textured American music story.

Keywords: ragtime; Aeolian Hall; Paul Whiteman; sopranino saxophone; hecklephone; Rhapsody in Blue

Chapter.  6062 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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