Gershwin on Jazz and Rhapsody in Blue
[Musical Canada vol. 6, no. 10 (October, 1925)]
The first jazz recording was made in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band playing “Livery Stable Blues” as you can hear here:
It was an immediate hit, bringing jazz to mainstream attention. Within seven short years of this milestone recording, Gershwin composed his jazz-influenced Rhapsody in Blue. Paul Whiteman and his band organized the premiere concert of the Rhapsody, which took place at New York’s Aeolian Hall on February 12, 1924 (92 years ago next month) with Gershwin as piano soloist. Over the next 10 years, Rhapsody in Blue would continue to be popular, earning Gershwin more than a quarter of a million dollars from performances, recordings, and rental fees.
The performances generated a debate about whether these uniquely American jazz elements were at home in a new mixture of popular music and that of the European concert tradition. After the Rhapsody’s London premiere, Gershwin was interviewed by Herbert S. Greenhalgh for the BBC’s Radio Times with the interview later reprinted in Musical Canada (October 1925, 13-14). In this interview Gershwin offers not only his views on jazz and the intermingling of musical genres, but also his opinion on syncopation in Bach, Stravinsky and the future of modern music, as well as personal insights about his night-owl working tendencies, his musical sketchbook, and his enthusiasm over the future of a new exciting technology: the “wireless” (i.e. radio). See excerpts from this interview below:
[Musical Canada, vol. 5, no. 10 (October, 1925): 13-14]
One can see the popularity of Gershwin through illustrations in music journals; this caricature accompanied Virgil Thomson’s 1935 article in Modern Music (December 1935) dealing with Gershwin’s symphonic compositions:
[Modern Music XIII, no. 1, (November-December 1935): 15]
This video is the original 1924 recording of Rhapsody in Blue performed by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.
And in this interview, Paul Whiteman talks about George Gershwin.
RIPM Search Tip: To read the entire article, use the “browse” mode in the RIPM e-library for the periodical Musical Canada, specifically the October 1925 issue.