|Maestro Ponti, me and friend Maggie at the party|
|Jeffrey Biegel at play|
During the pre-concert lecture, Biegel shared a bit of the history of "Rhapsody in Blue." Band leader Paul Whiteman had approached Gershwin with a request to compose a concerto-like piece for an all jazz performance to be given in February 1924. Gershwin agreed, but it kind of slipped his mind. His brother Ira read in the New York Post on January 3, 1924 that the upcoming concert would include a piece composed by George. Gershwin got to work on a train ride from New York to Boston--you can hear the sounds of the train tracks in the piece if you listen for them--and the composition was completed in a mere three weeks.
The version of "Rhapsody in Blue" that Biegel played at the concert was the version written and performed by George himself. (Gershwin's publishers edited 50 measures from the music to move the piece along a bit more quickly.) I will admit that I don't know the music well enough to know the difference between the popularized and original versions , but I do know a masterful performance when I hear one. To say that he received a standing ovation doesn't capture the excitement and enthusiasm with which his performance was received. If you're interested in hearing Biegel play the piece --on one of the Sing for Hope pianos that was situated outside by the Brooklyn Bridge -- click here. (I have never heard of Sing for Hope before, but it is an organization whose mission is to make all forms of the arts accessible to the public. Last summer 88 hand-painted pianos were placed in locations across the five boroughs of Manhattan. Anyone could play the pianos--from beginners to concert pianists like Biegel. At the end of the project, the pianos were donated to schools, hospitals and community centers. Incredibly cool.)
The CSO's first season with Maestro Ponti at the helm has gotten off to an incredible start. I can't wait to hear what he has in store for us.