Rhapsody in Blue

Who did this one rendition of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue that was almost 16 minutes long? Was it the I have been listening to the MP3 for quite a bit recently and I was wondering who actually did this version. Out of the few versions that I’ve heard, this one was the best, IMO. Or best sounding, at least. :slight_smile:

Wait! I might know this one…

Did the song start out like this:



United Airlines used to use it in their commercials. I think the Boston Pops did that version but I’m not 100% sure.

The version of Rhapsody in Blue I have is off the RCA Greatest Hits series. It’s 16:14 long and it was recorded by the Boston Pops with Arthur Fiedler conducting.

R.in.B was also used in Fantasia 2000. Since The Mouse is never shy about merchandising, I’m sure you could pick up a copy at a store near you. I’m not sure who recorded it for the movie, but it’s probably some one good.

It’s extremely easy to find recordings of Rhapsody in Blue: the Allmusic guide shows 185 recordings of it.

I have three – one by Oscar Levant in mono, an abbreviated solo piano version with Gershwin at the piano (also mon), and a stereo version by the Denver Symphony Orchestra playing along with Gershwin’s original piano rolls, so in effect, he’s playing with them. I got all these in bargin CD bins, and I’m sure you can find others if you look for them.

I have a 78 of Gershwin himself playing it, with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra. I don’t know if it’s the original recording or one done later—but that’s certainly the one to find. Not difficult; it’s been reissued on cassette and CD.

Eve’s right.

Gershwin composed the piece to be played by solo piano backed by a Whiteman-style jazz orchestra (mostly brass and reeds plus rhythm and a small string complement), NOT a symphony orchestra (mostly strings plus a handful of wind instruments, and percussionists who couldn’t swing if they were sitting on a gate).

Skip the dozens of full-orchestra versions and get one the way it was meant to be heard. My copy is on the COMPLETE AEOLIAN HALL CONCERT, a two-disc set recorded at a re-creation of the original 1924 concert performed in the late 1980s, with Real New York City Jazz Musicians playing in the band.

This being, hands down, my favorite piece of music (next fave: Bach’s Organ Fugue in G Minor), I have about three different copies of it.

One is by an East German Orchestra and talk about stiff! There is just no feeling at all in it - technically excellent, but emotionally stiff.

I know that didn’t answer the OP, but just wanted to share! :smiley:

“My late husband played the violin. Not professionally, but he was very good. He once played the Minute Waltz in 58 seconds.”

–Ada Quonsett (Helen Hayes) in “Airport”
I have a version by the Cincinnati Pops that’s very good. They scaled the group down to just the instruments in the original arrangement. And for historical sake, they played it as performed at its premiere. Gershwin cut out a few very short passages after that first concert. This rendition clocks in at eighteen minutes and change.

On one of my trips to New York, I tried to find Aeolian Hall. I’ve heard it’s on 42nd St. across from the library, but I’m not sure exactly which building it is. Can any of you NYC dopers help me out? And if they ever play Rhapsody in Blue there again, let me know, Ike. I’d drag myself down from Boston with my lips if I had to.

According to this, http://classical.efront.com/music/comp.lst/works/gershwin/rhapsodyinblue.html Gershwin only wrote the piano outline of the RHAPSODY. It was arranged for Whiteman’s band by Ferde Grofe. So scratch my comment about the original version being the way “Gershwin wanted it to sound.” It’s nothing more or less that the original version, and first of many.

Aeolian Hall, I’m sure, was torn down, or the building now houses a Burger King…I can check the copy of the playbill that’s in my CD when I get home to find the actual address, but Eve or stuyguy probably has it memorized…

There’s only about a zillion different versions of RIB.

There’s even a HARMONICA version (Still have that CD somewhere… it was celebrating some old harmonica jazz guy…)

Anyway, my favorite version of RIB is from GERSHWIN PLAYS GERSHWIN. It is Gershwin’s own piano roll of RIB played with Tilson Thomos and I think the Boston Orchestra. Regardless, I think no one does a better job than Tilson Thomas at capturing Gershwin. I’ve heard at least a dozen or so different versions and the one I love the most is still the Piano roll with Tilson Thomas.

Oh, BTW, it’s one of the best songs to have sex to. In fact, it’s a heavilly sexually driven song.

Was there ever an all-chicken version? I heard an all-chicken version of “Holiday for Strings” once that I’ve never quite recovered from.

Well, Eve, there’s “In the Mood” by The Henhouse Five Plus Two, but no version of “Rhapsody in Blue” that I know of. I don’t think a chicken could do justice to the opening glissando, anyway. And if you’re ever at the Library of Congress (what am I talking about, they’re probably number three on your speed dial), they have a Gershwin room downstairs. They have one of George’s pianos and one of Ira’s writing desks, and a hand-written score of “Rhapsody in Blue” left open to the first page.

I heard a local a cappella group doing a version of RiB on the radio once, but I changed the station instantly when I recognized what it was. I just don’t want someone else’s lyrics running through my memory every time I hear it.


In the version that I have, there is a piano that is on for the majority of the time. There’s a jazz-style orchesta playing along with the piano during the more emotional times.

I knew there were many versions of RIB, but I never realized that there were a LOT of versions.

Rue DeDay: Hmmm, I’ll look for that. It may be the same one as the one I have. :slight_smile:

After Gershwin’s death, probably the most common pianist of the piece was Oscar Levant. I know he recorded it with a number of orchestras, including Whiteman’s.

As a matter of fact, Levant did all the playing on the original movie about the composer which came out not long after Gershwin’s death.

As a young child, I remember my father getting angry at a tonight show episode when Jack Parr suggested that Levant, a guest on the show, played “Rapsody” as well or even better than Gershwin had.

Levant, a good friend of George Gershwin, used to joke that if it weren’t for George’s death, he, Levant, would have starved to death. Ira never found that funny. I would say if the recording has any age to it at all, it could easily be Levant.

Is this the recording with the front cover illustration of Tilson-Thomas conducting and a ghostly, semi-transparent Gershwin at the keyboard?
Great stuff. There may be other pianists with more technically accomplished versions, but none has the impact this one has for me.