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Topic: Rhapsody in Blue Question  (Read 2448 times)

Offline ehpianist

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Rhapsody in Blue Question
on: March 02, 2005, 08:18:20 PM
You guys were so helpful with my Schubert question, here is another one.

We are learning Henry Levine's duet arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue and there is a notation vs. performance issue we can't seem  to reconcile.

In the final theme (the maestoso-sounding one which begins where it says Andantino moderato) that goes (in quarters at 4/4) G# A B B(8va down tied to next quarter B) C# D# E F#...etc. You should recognize it by now. Anyway, during the long held theme notes there is the response D#D C# D# D C# D# D C# D#...etc which is notated as two eighth notes, two quarters, two eighth notes, two quarters. BUT I have always heard it performed at double the speed (sixteenth notes with eighths). Every time this theme occurs I find that this section is notated twice as slow as it is normally played and there is no indication of a radical change of tempo.

I have just ordered the miniature orchestra score but won't be getting it for a few weeks. Is it an error in the duet score? Is it simply performance practice to play it twice as fast? If played as written it I find it incredibly boring and it seems eternal. But I have never seen such a blatantly repeated discrepancy between score and performances.

Elena
https://www.pianofourhands.com

Offline pskim

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Re: Rhapsody in Blue Question
Reply #1 on: March 03, 2005, 02:19:50 PM
Have you heard the recording that Gershwin himself playing this piece?  The famous middle section is actually played faster than what the big orchestras usually play.  I think it is too romanticized by the modern orchestras.  He also recorded two piano version which he plays the questioned section in the correct rhythm.  It's just that he changes the tempo to a faster speed.

Offline ehpianist

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Re: Rhapsody in Blue Question
Reply #2 on: March 04, 2005, 06:41:28 PM
No, I haven't heard Gershwin's recordings.  Thanks for reminding me they exist.  I will try and get them.

Elena
https://www.pianofourhands.com

Offline jim_24601

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Re: Rhapsody in Blue Question
Reply #3 on: March 04, 2005, 08:12:05 PM
I have a solo piano arrangement of this piece and that chromatic counter-theme is indeed notated in quavers and crotchets (8ths and 4ths) where the main theme is in crotchets at 4/4. The same as yours, in other words. It's marked andantino moderato which isn't a particularly slow tempo; I suspect the orchestra is playing the main theme at half speed rather than the chromatics at double. You know what orchestral conductors are like. Give them an inch of con espressione and they'll take a mile of rubato ...

Offline apion

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Re: Rhapsody in Blue Question
Reply #4 on: March 05, 2005, 07:57:57 AM
When you've had your fill of "Rhapsody in Blue" and you're into Gershwin's "Piano Concerto in F", give me a ring.

Offline ehpianist

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Re: Rhapsody in Blue Question
Reply #5 on: March 06, 2005, 10:32:33 AM
Jim, I can see your point but that theme is marked Andantino Moderato in a 4/4 measure so it's not like one can fly away on the crotchets, otherwise it would be an Allegro at the very least.  But yes, there definitely is a 2 to 1 relationship between the theme and the chromatic counter theme.

Apion, I have actually never liked the Concerto in F (gasp!).  Several friends of mine have played it and I have never warmed to the piece.  But if we do play it I'll be sure to let you know!

Elena
https://www.pianofourhands.com

Offline jim_24601

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Re: Rhapsody in Blue Question
Reply #6 on: March 07, 2005, 01:39:10 PM
It's possible that the orchestral score is notated differently, though I wouldn't have thought it likely. How is this passage usually played on solo piano? I tried it myself paying attention to timing and I'll admit it took me several tries before I got it in strict tempo. But I think you can make the chromatics sound convincing as quavers and crotchets if you really make the most of them. There's actually an accelerando marked for the chromatics a page or so later, which suggests that you shouldn't vary the tempo too much earlier on, for contrast. My natural inclination, however, is always to do what the music says if there's a clear choice between the score and the recording.

Of course, I'm only an amateur and there's no reason you should take my advice if you don't agree with it. I'd like to suggest a little gedankenexperiment, though. I can't remember what instrument takes the chromatics in the orchestral arrangement, but I'll bet it's a clarinet or trumpet, one of the "jazzy" wind instruments. Most orchestral conductors tend to be string players, let the first violins get away with murder and take it out on the woodwind, you know. (I'm not saying what instrument I used to play apart from the piano, but I'm not giving out any prizes for guessing which section, either). Imagine that chromatic theme played by a first-rate jazz trumpeter - muted too, so he's really playing his little lungs out - and imagine the conductor has said he'll be keeping the strings in strict time, and to the trumpeter, "No, it's your theme, make the most of it. Enjoy it. Bring it out. Take your time." Now, when the trumpeter has picked himself off the floor, how is he going to play those notes?
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