Monday, July 31, 2017

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 340: Listen to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” (1924)

A number of years ago, I read an interesting article about musical composer George Gershwin, whose life was cut short in 1937 when he was just 38 years old. Gershwin wrote a number of famous musical compositions, including his well-known “Rhapsody in Blue.” I couldn’t honestly say that I’d ever listened to this widely-known musical work, which is why I put it on my “bucket list” a few years ago.

On Sunday, I set aside enough time to listen to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” from start to finish. It took me only a few minutes to find a complete recording of it on YouTube, and once my earplugs were in place, I listened to the whole thing. Some of it sounded familiar, but I enjoyed finally listening to the whole thing – and officially scratching it off my “bucket list.”

For those of you unfamiliar with Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” it was written in 1924. Like most traditional concertos, it was written for a solo instrument (in this case a piano) with a jazz band accompaniment. Interestingly, Gershwin was later quoted as saying that the pieces was largely inspired by the rhythmic sounds that came to his ears during a train ride to Boston.

“Rhapsody in Blue” was first publicly performed during a concert on Feb. 12, 1924 at Aeolian Hall in New York City. That concert, which was called “An Experiment in Modern Music” was held by Paul Whiteman and his band, Palais Royal Orchestra.” Whiteman, who outlived Gershwin by 30 years, was a famous band and orchestra leader, composer and violinist, who was often called the “King of Jazz.”

If you’d like to listen to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” for yourself, it’s relatively easy, especially if you do what I did. Just go to YouTube and type “Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue” in the search field. The search results should give you a wide variety of recordings to check out. The one that I listened to was 17 minutes and 38 seconds long.

I listened to the entire piece of music from beginning to end in one sitting and really got a kick out of it. I listened to much of it with my eyes closed, and some of it sounded very familiar. I honestly couldn’t put my finger on where I’d heard it before, but I’m sure that I’ve heard some of it played during TV commercials and on cartoons.

If you enjoy listening to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” you might want to check out some of his other well known works, including the music for 1928’s “An American in Paris” and the 1935 opera “Porgy and Bess.” Gershwin is also famous for his composition “Concerto in F,” which I listened to a few years ago.

In the end, how many of you have listened to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”? What did you think about it? What other musical works would you recommend listening to? Let us know in the comments section below.

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