composition

Rhapsody after Gershwin

for Violin and Piano

  • Genre
    Chamber
  • Commissioned by/written for
    Rachel Patrick
  • Year completed
    2015
  • Year revised
  • Timing
    19:00
  • Catalog number
    249a
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In 1985, I was commissioned by the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra to compose a work for the orchestra, and wrote Overture: The Spirit of Challenger as a result. My guiding idea for this commission was to write a piece that might have resulted if George Gershwin had been a graduate of a conservatory of music rather than a product of Tin Pan Alley. This work was written, however, long before I began my "after" series, pieces written in the style of older composers who didn't happen to write anything for certain instruments. When I began thinking about a work for violinist Rachel Patrick, who had brilliantly performed and recorded a number of my works, I thought of the idea of a work for violin and orchestra more or less modeled on Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, thinking that violinists might welcome a work in such a style. Rather than write a work in slavish imitation of the great American tunesmith, I elected to engage in a bit of speculation and so attempted to write something that Gershwin might have conceivably written had he lived another ten or so years. This allowed me to take a slightly more "concert hall" approach to the piece, especially in its harmonic treatment and somewhat more "serious"tone. The opening, for instance, is in a minor key. This approach also allowed me the luxury of leaving in those sections that perhaps sound more like my style than that of Gershwin. After all, who can say what Gershwin might have done if he'd lived to the age of 70? Regardless, the piece is structured along the lines of Gershwin's Rhapsody, and like that seminal work, is essentially a sequence of tunes with relatively little development of them. Criticism leveled against Rhapsody in Blue for this alleged defect seems not to have hurt its popularity in the least, and so I hope that the tunes that I have employed herein will help carry the day as well. The work does have some structure, and is comprised of three main sections in a fast, slow, fast, arrangement. The most Gershwineque theme, first heard in G Major, comes at the piece's midpoint, but reappears several times, including at the very end of the piece. As a violinist myself, I attempted to make a virtuoso display piece that would be both fun to play and to listen to. Along the way,I have inserted some humorous devices in this essentially light-hearted work. Rhapsody after Gershwin was begun on February 26, 2015 (several tunes were sketched out in advance of that date) and the orchestration was completed on May 3rd of the same year. The piano reduction here was made in order to give the piece further opportunities for performance.

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