George Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue (excerpt)

George Gershwin

  • Born: 1898
  • Died: 1937
  • Nationality: American

Why is he a Trailblazer?

In 1924 jazz and blues burst into the world of the classical orchestra thanks to trailblazer George Gershwin, who composed music full of the energy and playfulness of New York City in the 1920s.

Packed with Gershwin’s own dazzling piano solos, Rhapsody in Blue has become one of the most famous orchestral pieces of all time

George Gershwin
George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is full of the sounds and energy of 1920s New York. Radzi Chinyanganya introduces the piece and tells us about Gershwin’s love of Jazz and Blues.

Fast Facts

  • Growing up in New York City, George Gershwin’s musical gift became clear when he began to play a piano that had been bought for his older brother, Ira. He never looked back.

  • Gershwin became obsessed by the Jazz and Blues music he heard in the bars of Harlem. Until then most American composers had studied in Europe but Gershwin created his own rules and drew on these new American forms of music to create his own modern style.

  • Originally from a poor background, Gershwin’s talent as a pianist and composer led him to create many hit Broadway musicals (with Ira writing the lyrics) and he quickly become part of New York’s glamorous and sophisticated ‘high society’.

Pianist Lauren Zhang joins the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra to perform Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Rhapsody in Blue

George Gershwin claimed he frequently heard music “in the heart of noise” and said the idea for Rhapsody in Blue came to him while travelling on a train.

He poured the rhythms and noise of the modern city (including a clattering train) and its musical styles into his new piece.

At the time Jazz and Blues, created by African Americans in the southern states of America, were taking New York by storm.

So Gershwin created a patchwork of exciting jazz-influenced melodies and moods for his rhapsody.

From the soaring opening notes on the clarinet, to the razzle-dazzle of the brass, this is music full of excitement, swagger, and Gershwin’s love for his home.

Resources

KS2 Lesson plans
KS3 Lesson plans
KS2 Powerpoint slides
KS3 Powerpoint slides
Downloadable mp3
Multi-ability instrumental arrangements

Where next?

  • The piano is the star of Rhapsody in Blue. So why not explore how another composer put one instrument centre stage in Mozart’s wonderful Horn Concerto?

  • Or discover how Jean Sibelius also used music to capture how he felt about the place he called home in his dramatic Finlandia.

  • Get creative and upload your responses using the Ten Pieces Uploader!

Ten Pieces uploader