Rhapsody in Blue

From Wind Repertory Project
George Gershwin

George Gershwin (trans. Ferde Grofé)

General Info

Year: 1924 / 1938
Duration: c. 16:00
Difficulty: VI (soloist); V (ensemble) (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Piano and jazz band
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $150.00   |   Score Only (print) - $15.00


Full Score
Solo Piano
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Bass Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II
B-flat Cornet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion (4 players), including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bells
  • Chimes
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-tam
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

On January 4, 1924, Ira Gershwin brought a brief item in a New York Tribune to the attention of his younger brother George. Its heading read “Whiteman Judges Named. Committee Will Decide ‘What Is American Music.’” According to the advertisement (purely a media ploy), Paul Whiteman had assembled an impressive group of musicians including Sergei Rachmaninoff and Jascha Heifetz to witness a concert of new American music. This concert was to be presented on the afternoon of February 12, just five weeks later. Included would be “a jazz concert” on which George Gershwin was currently “at work.” Busy with his show Sweet Little Devil, Gershwin had not yet begun to compose such a concerto, though he and Whiteman had casually talked about his writing a special piece for the band.

Gershwin began work on Rhapsody in Blue on Monday, January 7. Though a gifted melodist, he was ill equipped to score the accompaniment. To assist him, Whiteman offered the services of his chief arranger, Ferde Grofé, who completed the score on February 4. The first of five rehearsals was held immediately, during which several modifications were made both to Gershwin’s music and Grofé’s arrangement. Most notable among these is the change in the opening clarinet solo. Gershwin had originally written a seventeen-note slur; however, Ross Gorman (Whiteman’s lead reed player) improvised the signature clarinet “wail.” According to contemporary reviews, the concert was rather dull, but Rhapsody in Blue was received enthusiastically by the audience, which included Jascha Heifetz, Victor Herbert, Fritz Kreisler, Sergei Rachmaninoff, John Philip Sousa, Leopold Stokowski and Igor Stravinsky.

In the years to come, there were a number of versions of Rhapsody in Blue produced to satisfy public demand for as many accessible renditions as possible. As the work’s popularity increased, the desire for a published large ensemble version led to Grofé’s 1926 setting for theatre orchestra. This was followed subsequently by an expansion of the theatre orchestra score for full symphony orchestra and a version for concert band, both by Grofé as well.

- Program Notes from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Wind Ensemble concert program, 19 April 2013


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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