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"Rhapsody in Blue"
The Missing Four Minutes
A visitor, Rod Demeny, asked me about an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune a few days ago. His letter and the responses from L. Douglas Henderson appear below. This is very interesting information and makes one wonder about composers and how their work reaches the public domain.
I ran across this article in today's paper (Chicago Tribune). As "Rhapsody in Blue" played by Gershwin (on two rolls) is my very favorite Duo-Art piece, I'm wondering if my rolls include the "lost" four minutes? Any idea? Seems like they should be there.
Wasn't sure if there was a place to post this article, but go ahead and forward if you'd like.
On Wednesday, the Boston Pops Orchestra premiered a newly restored version of the American classic.
Like the piece Gershwin played for the first time on Feb. 3, 1924, it has 50 more measures than the "Rhapsody" that has become so famous.
The score was altered in the 1920s by a commercial publisher who thought it was too hard to play.
"Gershwin had built all his little bridges between the parts the way they were supposed to go, and his editors just cut it up," said Alicia Zizzo, the concert pianist and composer who searched out Gershwin's original in the Library of Congress and restored it.
The Boston premier was the first public performance of the restored "Rhapsody" in its entirety.
A fragment was performed in April in Connecticut, and a compact disc recorded by Zizzo was released by the London-based Carlton Classics this month.
Jeffrey Biegel, the guest pianist Wednesday, said it was a pleasure not to play the "Reader's Digest condensed version" for a change. Biegel, 36, has been playing "Rhapsody" since he was 10.
From: "Douglas Henderson"
To: "John A. Tuttle"
Subject: RE: Rhapsody in Blue - DETAILS HERE
Just downloaded your 3 E-Mail notes, and am sending you another postscript.
I was downstairs, paying bills and sorting the PO mail, and running into several "wire" newspaper stories that various people sent me about the current "rediscovered 4 minutes" bit for RHAP. IN BLUE.
One line hit my eye, as I put these articles into folders, so that I'd have the appropriate newspaper in each case. The claim was "A publisher altered the score because they felt it would be TOO HARD TO play" - total nonsense!
Where is the documentation about this? The publisher was Harms - at that time - and the reason was probably this: "JAZZ BAND and Piano" had negative connotations on sheet music scores for twin pianos, in the upscale music stores of the day. However, "ORCHESTRA and Piano" sounded "classical" - which translated into sales.
Remember, Aeolian junked most of their 'Ragtime/Jazz' music after the Atty. Gen'l. Palmer raids - where J. Edgar Hoover learned about personal smears and illegal activities, since that s.o.b. was his 'mentor'. Companies were pressured to bring back "wholesome, family" music and Henry Ford pushed his Old Time Dance Orchestra to replace the Fox Trot and jazz dances with Polkas and Virginia Reels. The whole "back to the Victorian Days" bit died as automobiles, booze, movies and the popular culture embraced new ideas and technology, but this was a political force up to about 1924, the year that the Gershwin work was launched (and 2 years before the FAKE-Gershwin 'Armbruster' Set was offered in a completed form).
Any pianist who could handle Liszt Rhapsodies could play the Gershwin cadenzas, which were technically simpler.
This REVISIONIST HISTORY is the same as Rex Lawson speeding up on RITE OF SPRING and claiming that orchestras couldn't play the Stravinsky music that fast. The Pleyela roll labels had (in French) Tempo 80 "until the end". Antheil wrote - in English - "just like Stravinsky" on his Pleyel arranging instructions. Yet, I have a Pleyela roll that belonged to Antheil, and he writes faster here/slow/bass pedal etc. all over the place. Again, the Tempo 80 was a SUGGESTED starting speed and no more. The music was not supposed to "race" as the Lawson performances do, as the paper builds up on the lower spool.
I really dislike these pseudo-experts making unsubstantiated statements like the STRAVINSKY SPEED or the TOO HARD TO PLAY Gershwin line. Unless there's some printed or written material from that time, I don't buy it.
Antheil also gave Pleyel the freedom to change the stepping to 'fit' the music - in writing - and other details. A book I have translates the letters from (conductor) Ansermet and Robt. Lyon (who did the arranging work) to Stravinsky ... mentioning cuts that had to be made due to length, and "which notes are accented" (Themodist) etc.
These activities were "TWEAKING" and jury-rigging, by committee, pure and simple.
Anyway, those are my views on the subject.
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