Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
Arranged for Woodwind Quintet by Joachim Linckelmann
Instrumentation: flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon
Score and parts
Thanks to Ross Gorman, the clarinetist in Paul Whiteman’s Palais Royal Orchestra, today every player of Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin (1898-1937) can take the work’s opening run glissando. During a rehearsal, Gorman played the second half of the originally scalar run a la glissando. Gershwin liked it so much that he adopted it on the spot for the orchestration.
Indeed, the orchestration cues in the original two-piano version, on which our arrangement is based, named the relevant musicians in Whiteman’s orchestra rather than their instruments. When Gershwin was commissioned by Whiteman to write a jazz composition for orchestra, he initially declined owing to shortage of time. He only began composing the piece when the bandleader, on his own initiative, put the composer’s name on the program of the concert, scheduled for 12 February 1924 in New York’s Aeolian Hall.
Working under extreme deadline pressure, Gershwin wrote only the version for two pianos. Bit by bit he handed the piece to the band’s arranger, Ferde Grofe who took charge of orchestrating it for Whiteman’s orchestra. Gershwin completed the composition in a few weeks; Grofe’s orchestration was finished eight days before the premiere.
The concert, called “An Experiment in Modern Music,” featured a total of twenty-six works, of which Rhapsody in Blue was placed next to last. The results became the stuff of legend: not only did the hall’s ventilation system completely break down, Gershwin also had to play from the band’s score rather that his unfinished piano part (he was told to wait for his cues). The entire concert took place in the presence of such leading musical lights as Igor Stravinsky, Sergey Rachmaninoff, Leopold Stokowski, Jascha Heifetz, and Fritz Kreisler.
Our version for wind quintet is based on Gershwin’s original version for two pianos. It is completely unabridged, apart from two passages for solo piano that cannot be rendered by wind instruments. For an abridged version, two possible cuts are indicated by “Vi-de” marks one from bar 30-65, and another from bar 181 to 232.