Concerto for Piano in F

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George Gershwin

George Gershwin (trans. Ferde Grofé)

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General Info

Year: 1925 / 1928
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Piano and orchestra
Publisher: Unknown
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


1. Allegro
2. Andante con moto
3. Allegro agitato


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Concerto in F is a composition by George Gershwin for solo piano and orchestra which is closer in form to a traditional concerto than his earlier jazz-influenced Rhapsody in Blue. It was written in 1925 on a commission from the conductor and director Walter Damrosch. It is just over half an hour long.

The work was premiered by the New York Symphony Orchestra with Damrosch conducting at Carnegie Hall in New York on December 3, 1925, and featured the composer as the soloist. The concert was sold out and the concerto was very well received by the general public. However, the reviews were mixed, with many critics unable to classify it as jazz or classical. Indeed, there was a great variety of opinion among Gershwin's contemporaries. Sergei Prokofiev found it "amateurish". Arnold Schoenberg, one of the most influential composers at the time, praised Gershwin's concerto in a posthumous tribute in 1938:

The first recording was made in 1928 by Paul Whiteman and his Concert Orchestra, with Roy Bargy at the piano, in an abridged arrangement for jazz band by Ferde Grofé for Columbia Records.

- Program Note from Wikipedia

Only one recording of the Concerto in F was released during Gershwin’s short lifetime. Paul Whiteman apparently was miffed that, after having commissioned and popularized the Rhapsody in Blue and thereby launched Gershwin’s career as a serious composer, Gershwin had bypassed him for the first concert presentation of his first full classical work. Nonetheless, Whiteman seized the opportunity to cut the first recording, but in an arrangement by Ferde Grofé. To deepen the insult, in lieu of the obvious choice for the soloist -- Gershwin himself -- Whiteman used the staff pianist in his band.

Historical significance aside, the sonics are thick, the performance prosaic and the arrangement perverse. Rumor has it that Whiteman walked out of the session, to be taken over by William Daly, a close associate whom Gershwin trusted with conducting a half-dozen of his shows, so the swift and steady pacing should be considered as exemplifying the composer’s preferred style. Remarkably, Daly takes the opening and closing sections of the Andante at a vastly faster clip than any subsequent reading, which lends it a far more diffident tone than the usual soulful reverie. Beyond Grofé’s several major cuts, the deeper problem lies in the arrangement, which is not merely different for the sake of being different but denies the essence of Gershwin’s original orchestration by replacing his varied and fully appropriate textures with a boring uniformity. Thus, from the very outset Grofé reassigns most string lines to the winds and brass, fills in syncopated silences with extraneous cymbal and brass phrases, and even tampers with the distinctive percussion introduction, substituting woodwind yelps and tremolo growls for the cymbal and snare drum parts. By hobbling its flowing structure, emaciating its bold sound and essentially turning the concerto into a lame sequel to the Rhapsody in Blue, Whiteman’s message seems clear – if you won’t trust me with your new work, I’ll appropriate it anyway, and at the same time spoil your reputation by convincing the record-buying public that it’s just not all that good. (Message received -- until recently the Gershwin estate barred further recordings of the Grofé version.)

- Program Note by Peter Gutmann


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State Ratings

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