Rhapsody in Blue

Premiered at Aeolian Hall, New York, on February 12, 1924. Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, George Gershwin (piano).

In the midst of working on the musical comedy, SWEET LITTLE DEVIL, Gershwin was surprised to discover that Paul Whiteman was expecting him to write a jazz concerto for his forthcoming Experiment in Modern Music. Though the two had had earlier, casual conversations about a merging of jazz and classical themes, Gershwin was surprised that Whiteman had not kept him informed about his plans. But he was, as ever, challenged by both the idea and the timeframe, and got to work, rapidly creating what became the work that truly made his name. When Gershwin strode to the piano at Aeolian Hall that February afternoon, and Ross Gorman began his clarinet glissando, both the composer’s life and American music would never be the same. The RHAPSODY IN BLUE remains a standard in the symphonic repertoire and its melodies have graced stages around the world, including the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, where it was performed by 84 pianists. Its use in United Airlines commercials has made it even more ubiquitous.