30/06/2018: “Rhapsody In Blue” by George Gershwin


The idiosyncratically named “Rhapsody In Blue” is probably one of the most famous classical piano pieces.

The piece could be classified as jazz as well, using a lot of freeform melodies. Either way, it’s a wonderful thing to listen to, with a whimsical feel. It doesn’t feel at all as stuffy as some classical pieces, but doesn’t have the sometimes intimidating chaos of an experimental jazz piece.

There are orchestral versions, with the famous clarinet part right at the start, but the piano version is my favourite. It’s very buoyant and carefree, and Gerschwin’s ability to create and sustain interest in melodies is amazing.

The song makes a lot of use of rubato, which is basically messing about with the tempo, which helps to keep the song engaging. Additionally, there’s the use of blue notes from jazz, hence the name of the song. Blue notes are notes that are slightly differently pitched from normal.

The piece was originally composed in 1924, and the version I’ve chosen is from 1993’s Gerschwin Plays Gerschwin: The Piano Rolls. I find the concept of piano rolls very interesting; Gerschwin’s playing is transcribed onto sheets with holes in that can be reproduced by special pianos.

A lovely song!

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