"Rhapsody in Blue"

The Missing Four Minutes

A visitor, Rod Demeny, asked me about an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune a few days ago. His letter and the responses from L. Douglas Henderson appear below. This is very interesting information and makes one wonder about composers and how their work reaches the public domain.


Dear John,
I ran across this article in today's paper (Chicago Tribune). As "Rhapsody in Blue" played by Gershwin (on two rolls) is my very favorite Duo-Art piece, I'm wondering if my rolls include the "lost" four minutes? Any idea? Seems like they should be there.
Wasn't sure if there was a place to post this article, but go ahead and forward if you'd like.
Respectfully,
Rod Demeny
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`RHAPSODY IN BLUE' GETS BACK 4 FORGOTTEN MINUTES
"Rhapsody in Blue" is four minutes longer--just the way George Gershwin wrote it.
On Wednesday, the Boston Pops Orchestra premiered a newly restored version of the American classic.
Like the piece Gershwin played for the first time on Feb. 3, 1924, it has 50 more measures than the "Rhapsody" that has become so famous.
The score was altered in the 1920s by a commercial publisher who thought it was too hard to play.
"Gershwin had built all his little bridges between the parts the way they were supposed to go, and his editors just cut it up," said Alicia Zizzo, the concert pianist and composer who searched out Gershwin's original in the Library of Congress and restored it.
The Boston premier was the first public performance of the restored "Rhapsody" in its entirety.
A fragment was performed in April in Connecticut, and a compact disc recorded by Zizzo was released by the London-based Carlton Classics this month.
Jeffrey Biegel, the guest pianist Wednesday, said it was a pleasure not to play the "Reader's Digest condensed version" for a change. Biegel, 36, has been playing "Rhapsody" since he was 10.
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From: "Douglas Henderson"
To: "John A. Tuttle"
Subject: RE: Rhapsody in Blue - DETAILS HERE

Dear John,
Yes, I know about the "missing 4 minutes" discovered by pianist/musician Alicia Zizzo - who did the score that was the basis for my Pianola arrangement of BLUE MONDAY. I also know about the BSO 'premiere' of this version.
She located a handwritten version - in the composer's own script - and also recorded it for Pro Arte CD's, of which I have a copy. Both Robin Pratt and I (I played it on the 'phone at the time the recording came out) believe it's a "work in progress" and not THE ORIGINAL version, of a piece that went through many changes and additions. For example, the "Mysterioso" (machine imitation) section before the Coda is missing on my PRIMO (in-house) Duo-Art demonstration roll and also in the early Harms score (before Grofé 'orchestrated' it) as an "extra" or "option".
This version has Liszt-imitation cadenzas in it, which stop-the-action in my opinion ... leading Lois, Robin and me to consider it to be something that Gershwin fiddled with, but didn't hammer down in that form.
Years ago, I took the Armbruster FAKE-Gershwin roll of the piece for Duo-Art and a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody #2 roll and intercut them, going back and forth from one to the other ... and the piece "stalled" in a similar fashion. (It was done as a joke, reading the 2 rolls on my Leabarjan, and making this hybrid arrangement to play in the early '60s.) Both pieces are in the Key of E and both have measures and measures of the same chord progressions - which I discovered as a teenager by comparing and sight-reading the 2 rolls. (Somewhere this Duo-Art roll is in my boxed up old projects, today.)
She and Edw. Jablonski - the Gershwin authority - decided this was THE VERSION and it's getting the hype along those lines.
Meanwhile, Masanobu Ikemiya (and his NY Ragtime Orchestra) premiered a version based on (a) my PRIMO roll, of which he bought one of the 43 copies beyond mine;(b) the acoustic pre-Grofé acoustic Victor 78 with the BLUE LABEL and (c) his own ideas. We heard one of the first performances at Dover-Foxcroft, ME a couple of years ago, and he 'phoned recently to say that this was being recorded for CD's and tapes, very soon'. Mas (as he calls himself on Ragtime/Gershwin performances) "toyed" with the music, added mordents and tossed the music back and forth among his select group of musicians.
The Ikemiya trans. OUTDID the Gershwin 78 and had all the youthful Jazz Age ambiance the piece deserves. I doubt if I'll ever heard anything as terrific as that version again, and Lois agrees.
On-stage before the performance - not knowing I was in the audience - he said how he based this new arrangements upon a special demonstration roll and the composer's 1st recording (a tape of which I had supplied to him). He told the packed house at the Foxcroft Academy that this "jazz band" version, where piano and band were ONE allowed for rubato effects and all sorts of interplay that would be impossible with a symphonic ensemble. [Whiteman later had a 100-piece orchestra on the Stanley Theatre chain, for example.]
Anyway, it's interesting to hear this early "4 mins. extra" version, but knowing the Liszt connection to the music and also the fact that Gershwin tweaked his music on Broadway and in the concert hall to fit the occasion, I don't consider it to be THE SOURCE and find its "Liszt stalling" to be an irritant when compared to the early Harms 'Jazz Band & Piano' edition.
For example, the "cut music" from PORGY & BESS - after a Boston try-out - later turned up as a suite called "Catfish Row"!
Hope to come out with a 3-roll Set based on the PRIMO roll, Ikemiya's version and my own ideas, a high speed roll for Duo-Art which would give better staccato. The PRIMO roll starts at Tempo 100, not the Armbruster "60" on the 'Muzak' rolls dumped on a naive Duo-Art public long after the debut at Aeolian Hall.

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Hi again John,
Just downloaded your 3 E-Mail notes, and am sending you another postscript.
I was downstairs, paying bills and sorting the PO mail, and running into several "wire" newspaper stories that various people sent me about the current "rediscovered 4 minutes" bit for RHAP. IN BLUE.
One line hit my eye, as I put these articles into folders, so that I'd have the appropriate newspaper in each case. The claim was "A publisher altered the score because they felt it would be TOO HARD TO play" - total nonsense!
Where is the documentation about this? The publisher was Harms - at that time - and the reason was probably this: "JAZZ BAND and Piano" had negative connotations on sheet music scores for twin pianos, in the upscale music stores of the day. However, "ORCHESTRA and Piano" sounded "classical" - which translated into sales.
Remember, Aeolian junked most of their 'Ragtime/Jazz' music after the Atty. Gen'l. Palmer raids - where J. Edgar Hoover learned about personal smears and illegal activities, since that s.o.b. was his 'mentor'. Companies were pressured to bring back "wholesome, family" music and Henry Ford pushed his Old Time Dance Orchestra to replace the Fox Trot and jazz dances with Polkas and Virginia Reels. The whole "back to the Victorian Days" bit died as automobiles, booze, movies and the popular culture embraced new ideas and technology, but this was a political force up to about 1924, the year that the Gershwin work was launched (and 2 years before the FAKE-Gershwin 'Armbruster' Set was offered in a completed form).
Any pianist who could handle Liszt Rhapsodies could play the Gershwin cadenzas, which were technically simpler.
This REVISIONIST HISTORY is the same as Rex Lawson speeding up on RITE OF SPRING and claiming that orchestras couldn't play the Stravinsky music that fast. The Pleyela roll labels had (in French) Tempo 80 "until the end". Antheil wrote - in English - "just like Stravinsky" on his Pleyel arranging instructions. Yet, I have a Pleyela roll that belonged to Antheil, and he writes faster here/slow/bass pedal etc. all over the place. Again, the Tempo 80 was a SUGGESTED starting speed and no more. The music was not supposed to "race" as the Lawson performances do, as the paper builds up on the lower spool.
I really dislike these pseudo-experts making unsubstantiated statements like the STRAVINSKY SPEED or the TOO HARD TO PLAY Gershwin line. Unless there's some printed or written material from that time, I don't buy it.
Antheil also gave Pleyel the freedom to change the stepping to 'fit' the music - in writing - and other details. A book I have translates the letters from (conductor) Ansermet and Robt. Lyon (who did the arranging work) to Stravinsky ... mentioning cuts that had to be made due to length, and "which notes are accented" (Themodist) etc.
These activities were "TWEAKING" and jury-rigging, by committee, pure and simple.
Anyway, those are my views on the subject.
Regards,
(signed) Douglas

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