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.
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.
"Rhapsody in Blue" is four minutes longer--just the way George Gershwin
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
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.
From: "Douglas Henderson"
To: "John A. Tuttle"
Subject: RE: Rhapsody in Blue - DETAILS HERE
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
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
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
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
Anyway, those are my views on the subject.