Day 27 – A Song That You Wish You Could Play – George Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue
I first heard this song as a child, but could never remember the name of it, only the tune in my head. I heard it again much later when watching Fantasia 2000 (yes, they made a sequel!). This song was used in a scene depicting the Great Depression in NYC. The song’s composer, George Gershwin was a New York local, writing many songs on the piano in his apartment. Although he died young – aged 36 – he composed and recorded dozens, if not hundreds of songs, including more than a dozen Broadway shows.
This song is a modern masterpiece, both in its complex simplicity, and its orchestral arrangements. The piano piece of this repeats itself in many parts, with a single phrase being reused over and over, changing key, but holding the same progressions. I love the way that when I close my eyes, I can picture an industrial city, alive with people and progress. I imagine it almost exactly as Disney depicted in Fantasia 2000, which I believe is what they were trying to achieve.
I would love to one day be able to play this in its entirety on piano, from memory (I cannot read music, as yet) however, I don’t think that it is a realistic dream. That said, I will always have it as an aspiration, and one day hope to cross it off my list of things to do.
When George was asked about how he came up with the idea of the song, and then went on to compose it, George said to his biographer “It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise… And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance”
George Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue (Original Recording)
Leonard Bernstein plays Rhapsody in Blue (2 Parts)
Fantasia 2000 – Rhapsody in Blue