Rhapsody in Blue (arr Hunsberger)

From Wind Repertory Project
George Gershwin

George Gershwin (arr. Donald Hunsberger)

Subtitle: Setting for Piano and Wind Ensemble

General Info

Year: 1924 / 1998
Duration: c. 18:00
Difficulty: V (solo) / IV (band) (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Piano and jazz band
Publisher: Alfred Music Publishing
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $200.00   |   Score Only (print) - $50.00

Instrumentation (one player per part)

Full Score
Solo Piano
Flute I-II (II doubling Piccolo)
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II (both doubling B-flat Soprano Saxophone)
B-flat Tenor Saxophone (doubling B-flat Soprano Saxophone)
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Trap Set
    • Bass Drum
    • Bells
    • Cymbals
    • Gong
    • Snare Drum
    • Triangle


  • Bassoon, m. 137: The B natural is incorrect; Most likely, note should not change from previous measure - stay on D2. (Grofe version splits Bassoons to D2 - A2.)
  • (Sax 1) Soprano Saxophone, m. 164: notes should be Ab-G-Ab-F tied into m. 165.
  • (Sax 4) Baritone Saxophone, m. 147: Last 8th note should not stay on G5; it should move to E5 like others on melody.
  • Horn, m. 76: beat 4 should be a D#

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.

This edition of Rhapsody in Blue, arranged by Donald Hunsberger, preserves characteristic timbres and transparent qualities of the orchestral setting while texturally capturing – despite the absence of strings – its innate vertical densities. Gershwin’s personal copy of Grofé’s symphony orchestra score (housed in the Library of Congress) has been used as its primary research source. Select string substitutions found in Grofé’s band setting have also been incorporated along with scoring options from the manuscripts of his theatre orchestra and Whiteman Band versions (both also in the Library of Congress.)

- Program notes from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Wind Ensemble concert program, 8 March 2013


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Southeastern Louisiana University (Hammond) Wind Symphony (Robert Schwartz, conductor; Henry Jones, piano) - 28 September 2023
  • University of Georgia (Athens) Hodgson Wind Ensemble (Nicholas Enrico Williams, conductor; Jia Meng, piano) - 19 September 2023
  • Pittsburg (Kan.) State University Wind Ensemble (Andrew Chybowski, conductor) - 16 February 2023
  • Wheaton College (Ill.) Symphonic Band (Brady McNeil, conductor) - 7 October 2022
  • Arkansas Tech University (Russellville) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Daniel A. Belongia, conductor; Timothy Smith, piano) - 24 April 2022
  • Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) Symphonic Band (L. Nathan Seamons, conductor; Jared Pierce, piano) - 31 March 2022
  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Indiana, Penn.) Wind Ensemble (Timothy Paul, conductor; Henry Wong Doe, piano) - 10 March 2022
  • Grace College (Winona Lake, Ind.) Wind Ensemble (Eric Criss, conductor; Judie Meulink, piano; Chris French, clarinet) - 20 November 2020
  • Santa Clara (Calif.) University Wind Ensemble (Anthony Rivera, conductor; Teresa McCollough, piano) - 3 March 2020
  • Washington State University (Pullman) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Dahn Pham, conductor; Yoon-Wha (Yuna) Roh, piano) – 12 February 2020
  • Royal Canadian Air Force Band (Winnipeg, Man.) (Matthew Clark, conductor; David Fraser, piano)– 8 November 2019
  • University of Cincinnati (Ohio) College-Conservatory of Music Wind Ensemble (Kevin Michael Holzman, conductor) – 15 September 2019
  • United States Army Band (Ft. Myer, Va.) (Andrew Esch, conductor; Dan Campolieta, piano) - 17 August 2019
  • Messiah College (Mechanicsburg, Penn.) Wind Ensemble (James Colonna, conductor; Carrie Gallagher, piano) – 28 April 2019
  • Texas A&M University (College Station) Wind Symphony (Timothy Rhea, conductor; Miguel Sousa, piano) – 28 April 2019
  • Texas Tech University (Lubbock) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Sarah McKoin, conductor; Tatiana Mann, piano) – 28 March 2019
  • University of Cincinnati (Ohio) College-Conservatory of Music Wind Ensemble (Kevin Michael Holzman, conductor; Michael Chertock, piano) – 17 April 2018
  • The Hartt Omni-Ensemble (West Hartford, Conn.) (James E. Jackson III, conductor; Yoshino Toi, piani) – 31 March 2018
  • United States Military Academy Band (West Point N.Y.) (Tod Addison, conductor; Yalin Chi, piano) – 20 January 2018
  • University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire Wind Symphony (John R. Stewart, conductor; Yi Hsien Li, piano) - 27 April 2017

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works