Sunday, November 30, 2014

2012 - Original 1924 Jazz Band Version, "RHAPSODY IN BLUE" (17 mins)

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2012 - Original 1924 Jazz Band Version, "RHAPSODY IN BLUE" (17 mins)
Posted By: hobie [Send E-Mail]
Date: Sunday, 30-Nov-2014 18:04:07

Hi, Folks -
I was sampling YouTube clips, looking for the "Rhapsody in Blue" that's in my memory :), when I came upon this one.
Perhaps like me, your stored-in-memory version of this piece is performed by a full orchestra. Full orchestra arrangements came years later, though, after Gershwin had composed the piece and Paul Whiteman's band, called Palais Royal Orchestra, had given it its premier performance.
Below, members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Litton who is also the piano soloist, perform the original jazz band arrangement of "Rhapsody in Blue".
It may sound a bit 'thin' to you - there are some violins along with the 24-piece band, but no full string sections. But I find it feels "closer to the 1920s", with some ragtime-like touches I was less aware of in the full orchestra versions. You can imagine the audience in 1924 going wild on hearing this for the first time. :)
Thanks to YouTuber ncmtman, who also supplied some notes about the various arrangements which I'll include below the clip.

Rhapsody in Blue premiered in an afternoon concert on February 12, 1924, held by Paul Whiteman and his band Palais Royal Orchestra, entitled An Experiment in Modern Music, which took place in Aeolian Hall in New York City. The version that was heard then was for a 24-piece jazz band, not for full orchestra. This was the original arrangement of Gershwin's masterpiece.
Gershwin had agreed that Ferde Grofé, Whiteman's pianist and chief arranger, was the key figure in enabling the piece to be successful, and critics have praised the orchestral colour. Grofé confirmed in 1938 that Gershwin did not have sufficient knowledge of orchestration in 1924. After the premiere, Grofé took the score and made new orchestrations in 1926 and 1942, each time for larger orchestras. Up until 1976, when Michael Tilson Thomas recorded the original jazz band version for the very first time, the 1942 version was the arrangement usually performed and recorded.
The 1924 orchestration for Whiteman's band of 24 musicians (plus violins) calls for the following orchestra: woodwinds (5 players): flute, oboe, clarinet in E-flat, clarinet in B-flat, alto clarinet in E-flat, bass clarinet in B-flat, heckelphone, sopranino saxophone in E-flat, soprano saxophone in B-flat, alto saxophone in E-flat, tenor saxophone in B-flat, baritone saxophone in E-flat; brass: 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 flugelhorns, euphonium, 3 trombones, tuba; percussion: drums, timpani, trap set; keyboards: 2 pianos, celesta, accordion; strings: banjo, violins and string basses. Many musicians, especially the reeds, played two or more instruments; the reed "doublings" were especially calculated to take advantage of the full panoply of instruments available in that section of Whiteman's band. Indeed, Grofé's familiarity with the Whiteman band's strengths are a key factor in the scoring. This original version, with its unique instrumental requirements, had lain dormant until its revival in reconstructions beginning in the mid-1980s, owing to the popularity and serviceability of the later scorings.
This performance is by members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, with the conducting and piano soloist: Andrew Litton


Anonymous said...

There are several recordings of this piece performed in the original scoring, probably due to the interest in "authentic performance" nowadays. By the way, the clarinet glissando at the beginning was never written that way in the score. The tradition of playing the second half of the opening scale as a glissando was introduced by the clarinetist (I forget his name) of the Paul Whiteman Band. The story goes that the Band had spent an exhausting day rehearsing the piece for the premiere performance and the clarinetist, in the interest of lightening the mood, instead of playing the opening as a scale for the umpteenth time added a whimsical glissando. Everybody liked the idea and the tradition of playing it that way was started. But the score was never revised to reflect the change.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid back in the 60's my mother played/blasted this constantly. Even as a kid I loved it.