Piece: Rhapsody in Blue
Composer: George Gershwin
Premier: February 12, 1924, New York
One Christmas when I was a boy, my maternal grandmother gave me an audio tape of Appalachian Spring and Rhapsody in Blue performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein conducting (and playing piano). I was young enough that what I really wanted was toys and this gift was a little disappointing. Taking note of my reaction, Grandma urged me to look at it as an investment in my future.
She was right, of course. Over time, I fell in love with both pieces and the tape she gave me became one of my most treasured possessions. I lent it to a girlfriend once who nearly lost it. Grr...
When my daughter first started to explore classical music, Rhapsody emerged as her favorite piece. I suspect the fact that her two main instruments, piano and clarinet, are both prominently featured in Rhapsody is not entirely coincidental. One year, her maternal grandmother got her a copy of the sheet music for Christmas. The piano arrangement is beyond her current ability but she still enjoys noodling around with it.
The original setting was for solo piano and jazz band. Gershwin himself played piano for the premier, a concert at Aeolian Hall entitled An Experiment in Modern Music. The following is Bernstein, conducting and performing with the New York Philharmonic.