In celebration of the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s iconic concerto fusing classical music and jazz, The George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition at the Univeristy of Michigan has published musicologist Ryan Raul Bañagale‘s landmark scholarly edition of the original 1924 jazz band version of Rhapsody in Blue, orchestrated by Ferde Grofé. The publication now makes the work’s full original musical notation – as it likely sounded when it was first premiered – available to Gershwin fans, music students, scholars, and performers.
The cover of the new critical edition of Rhapsody in Blue, edited by Ryan Raul Bañagale (Schott, 2023).
A signal voice in the American musical imagination, the melodies of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue were first heard on February 12, 1924 in New York’s Aeolian Hall. The composer was at the keyboard and the accompanying ensemble was not a symphony orchestra, but a jazz band. The performance was the climactic argument in bandleader Paul Whiteman’s “Experiment in Modern Music” to prove that jazz was an art form worthy of cultural respect.
Volume Editor and Gershwin Edition Editorial Board member, Ryan Bañagale
The new edition appears in two forms: a FULL SCORE representing all the music performed by the piano solo and jazz orchestra, and a TWO-PIANO with the piano solo and a musical reduction for the accompaniment by a second piano. The orchestrator was Ferde Grofé, the house arranger for Whiteman’s unique ensemble. The critical edition is available exclusively from Schott Music, International. Additional publications, including the symphonic tone-poem An American in Paris (edited by Mark Clague) and The Gershwins Abroad (edited by Michael Owen), an edition of Ira Gershwin’s related European tour diary, are forthcoming.
The George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition project is a unique partnership between the University of Michigan, the American Music Institute of its School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and the George and Ira Gershwin families to preserve the artistic legacy of the Gershwin brothers for the nation and the world. It is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and a matching gift from individual donors, including members of the Gershwin family and Alfred and Jane Wolin.
Members of the Gershwin Initiative holding the publication of Rhapsody in Blue. Left to right: Jacob Kerzner, Associate Editor; Mark Clague, Editor-in-Chief; Lisa Keeney, Senior Editorial Assistant; Andrew S. Kohler, Alfred and Jane Wolin Managing Editor. Photograph by Laura Jackson.