| Rhapsody in Blue
It's not red, orange, or purple, it's blue! Written by George Gershwin, it's one of his most popular works. Listeners will recognize the two-and-a-half octave glissando that is played in a jazzy style by the clarinet. Later in the piece, the piano strikes up, playing the same recognizable tune played in the beginning, with a few more jazzy additions. Rhapsody in Blue blends classical with jazz. Listeners will instantly think of (1920's-1930's) New York City when listening to this piece, where it first premiered. The piece spans from 13-18 minutes long (depending on who's playing it), and it's enjoyable through and through once you start to listen to it more.
You may not realize it, but Rhapsody in Blue was written very quickly. On January 3, 1924, Gershwin and his brother Ira were at a billiard parlor. An article in the New York tribune caught Ira's attention: George Gershwin was working on a jazz concerto that would be due on February 12th. This was all news to George. George had to hurry, because time was running out. On a train to Boston, Gershwin made plans for what is now Rhapsody in Blue. Before his musical "Sweet Little Devil" was about to premiere, he made a few extra changes, and the work was complete. A jazz concerto hadn't been created, but something better had. At first, George was going to name it "American Rhapsody", but his brother Ira suggested something better. While Ira was at an exhibition for Whistler's paintings, he saw a painting called Nocturne in Blue and Green. Ira suggested that instead of American Rhapsody, why not Rhapsody in Blue? Gershwin agreed. American Rhapsody was now Rhapsody in Blue.
On February 12, 1924, Aeolian Hall in New York City was packed. Violinist Fritz Kreisler, conductor Leopold Stokowski, and even composer Rachmanioff attended the premiere. With only a few weeks' notice, Gershwin came up with one of America's greatest classical pieces-Rhapsody in Blue.
| Piano Sonata #14, "Moonlight"
-Ludwig van Beethoven-
Piano sonata #14 in C-sharp minor, also known as "Sonata quasi una fantasia" (translated literally to "sonata almost a fantasy"), is popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata. It is one of Beethoven's most popular piano works-and also one of the most popular piano works out there, the 1st movement being the most popular. The piece is separated into 3 movements. Movement 1, adagio sostenuto, is very gloomy and hardly ever gets very loud. It was very popular during Beethoven's day and made a powerful impression on it's listeners-including Beethoven himself. The 2nd movement, the allegretto, is more cheerful and is almost like a scherzo and trio. Despite the fact that it is very short and may sound easy to play, the 1st movement is much easier to play than the 2nd movement. The 3rd movement, the presto agitato is very stormy and fast and requires the most skillful of playing. The movement has many fast arpeggios and strongly accented notes.
Written in 1801, Beethoven dedicated this sonata to his pupil Countess Giulietta Guicciardi in 1802. In fact, it wasn't even named the Moonlight Sonata when Beethoven wrote it. The name "Moonlight Sonata" was actually suggested by German poet and critic Ludwig Rellstab. In 1832, 5 years after Beethoven's death, Rellstab said that the 1st movement reminded him of the moon shining on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. Later in the 19th century, the sonata was known by that name. However, many people disagreed with the name, calling it "absurd" and "a misleading approach to a movement with almost the character of a funeral march". Not everyone disagreed, though. Many people found it to be a suitable title, and indeed the 1st movement may remind you of the clouds passing over the full moon.