Rhapsody in Blue, Reimagined

Switched on Pop

22-03-2024 • 30分

What do Duke Ellington, United Airlines, and the K Pop group Red Velvet share in common? They've all covered George Gershwin's piano concerto, Rhapsody in Blue. First premiered in 1924, the piece became an immediate hit for the way it blended American jazz with the European symphonic tradition. Gershwin had a number of successes as a composer in his day—his aria "Summertime" from the opera Porgy and Bess is by some measures the most covered song ever—but the staying power of the Rhapsody make it a rare instrumental piece that's instantly familiar. Maybe too familiar. In 2024, there will be many centennial performances of this iconic piece, but pianist Lara Downes wanted to do something more than just the sound the notes of Gershwin's score for the umpteenth time. Downes commissioned Puerto Rican musician Edmar Colon to create a new version of Gershwin's composition, one that brought in the full spectrum of American life in 1924: fiery improvisation, Latin percussion, and dance rhythms. The resultant piece both pays tribute to an American icon while adding a new set of modern counterpoint. Nate sat down with Lara to ask her if she was nervous to rewrite such a canonic piece, why a concerto is like a musical kaleidoscope, and the surprising family connection to Gershwin's musical world she discovered while researching Rhapsody in Blue. Songs Discussed George Gershwin, Lara Downes, Edmar Colon - Rhapsody in Blue Reimagined Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue Gershwin - 3 Preludes: II. Andante con moto e poco rubato Sarah Vaughan - Nice Work if You can Get It Sam Cooke - Summertime Chet Baker - But not For ME Louis Armstrong - Aint Misbehavin Ella Fitzgerald - Blue Skies Red Velvet - Birthday Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices