Gershwin, Gottschalk and Michael Lewin with The Concord Band
Concord, Mass, February 13, 2013 —
Boston played a role in the origins of the American classic
Rhapsody in Blue, and a Boston-based piano virtuoso who lives in
Newton will bring the piece to life in Concord on March 2 at the Performing
Arts Center, 51 Walden Street.
In early January 1924, George Gershwin was on a train ride from New York to
Boston when the rhythmic noises of the train on steel rails helped him form
the concept of Rhapsody in Blue.
Internationally-acclaimed pianist Michael Lewin has made the Rhapsody
an important part of his piano repertoire.
He has performed it more than 50 times with orchestras around the world.
Of a performance in Miami, the Miami Herald said:
“The virtuoso pianist confirmed his gifts with this stellar
He gave us a precise and solid interpretation of the famous work.
Lewin&squo;s execution was truly impressive in its style and
The famous work had a successful premiere in New York by Paul
Whiteman’s Jazz Band on February 12, 1924 with Gershwin himself at
the piano; the enthusiastic audience included John Philip Sousa, Sergei
Rachmaninoff, and Igor Stravinsky, among other music luminaries.
With little time to compose the piece during January, Gershwin completed a
two-piano version that he provided to Whiteman’s arranger, Ferde
Grof&eqcute;, best known today for writing the Grand Canyon Suite.
Grof&eqcute;’s original orchestration for Whiteman’s jazz band
was finished on February 4 and then modified in the first of five
rehearsals before the concert.
Gershwin had not finished all of the piano score, so played or improvised
the part from memory.
His understanding with Whiteman was that he would nod when his solos were
over and the next orchestral portion was to begin.
The piece was later re-orchestrated by Grof&eqcute;, first for additional
instruments in Whiteman’s own band (Whiteman had made it his signature
piece), and then for larger ensembles.
In 1938 Grof&eqcute; scored it for concert band (four years before the 1942
orchestral score that is used today by most symphony orchestras), but
without a solo piano part!
Instead, Grof&eqcute; had distributed the solo piano material amongst the
instruments in the band.
Thus, the published band version required substantial editing over the years
to include a piano solo and numerous other corrections and re-harmonizations
not true to the original version or even the later full orchestral versions.
The Concord Band performed the edited 1938 band version in 1990 with local
pianist Frederick Moyer, and tinkering with the score by then Music Director
In 1998, Dr. Thomas Verrier, now a professor at Vanderbilt’s Blair
School of Music, created a new band arrangement that included solo piano,
cleaned up the errors in the 1938 Grof&eqcute; concert band arrangement,
and retained all the characteristic sounds of the original.
In fact, Verrier used Gershwin’s personal copy of the Grof&eqcute;
symphony orchestra score as a primary source in his arrangement.
It is the Verrier arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue that Michael Lewin
and the Concord Band will perform.
It will be Lewin’s first performance of Rhapsody with a band.
Michael told Band president Ken Troup that it is a pleasure to play with
community groups that are always appreciative of professional soloists.
Jim O’Dell, Music Director of the Concord Band, explained his
interest in Rhapsody in Blue for the March 2 program, subtitled
“Made in America” this way:
“I wanted to perform it because of the Verrier arrangement and its
inclusion in The Donald Hunsberger Wind Library as a publication that
further enriches the wind band’s repertoire.
While I have been a friend and colleague of Michael’s for 20 years,
we have never before publicly performed together.”
For his part, Lewin said “I am thrilled to be working with Jim on
Michael Lewin is a Juilliard School graduate and is on the piano faculties
of The Boston Conservatory and Boston University.
His career was launched with top prizes in the Liszt International
Competition, the American Pianists Association Award, and the Kapell
International Piano Competition.
The New York Times wrote of Michael’s New York recital debut in
Lincoln Center in 1984 that
“his immense technique and ability qualify him eminently for
His extensive repertoire includes more than 40 piano concertos, with
particular interest in the music of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt,
Debussy and American composers.
Recent concert highlights include the celebration of Liszt’s 200th
birthday around the world.
Michael has appeared with the Boston Pops 13 times and is internationally
applauded as one of America’s most abundantly gifted and charismatic
concert pianists, performing to acclaim in more than 30 countries with
orchestras, in recital and as a chamber musician.
His discography has received critical praise, and reflects the great scope
of his musical interests.
He has given world premieres of two piano concertos by David Kocsis, the
Concerto for the New Millennium, in 2000, and the Concerto for Piano and
Chamber Orchestra in 2012.
Among Lewin’s many recordings is the piano music of American
composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
A second delight for the March 2 Concord Band audience will be a
transcription for piano and concert band of Gottschalk’s piano and
orchestra dance piece C&eqcute;lèbre Tarentelle, with Lewin playing
the piano solo with the Band.
Michael said playing the two pieces together is “an interesting
They were both American composers whose names begin with G and who died
Both were seminal figures in American music who straddled other musical
genres with classical: jazz in Gershwin’s case, and Caribbean music
in Gottschalk’s case.”
The Tarentelle was first performed in Philadelphia in 1864 and is a bright,
fast Italian folk dance.
A review of a North Carolina performance by Michael Lewin with orchestral
“In Gottschalk’s toe-tapping Grande Tarantelle, Lewin quickly
established his mastery of crystal-clear articulation and confident
precision, reaching appropriate abandon in the energetic climax.”
Gottschalk played piano at an early age and was a wunderkind in New Orleans
before sailing to Europe at the age of 14 to further his classical piano
After 13 years in Europe, he returned to the Americas where he toured
extensively and was arguably the foremost pianist in the New World.
Because of his tours throughout the Americas and his New Orleans roots,
Gottschalk became the first significant composer to use African-American
and Latin-American melodies and rhythms.
To take full advantage of Lewin’s versatility, Jim O’Dell has
included Percy Aldridge Grainger’s
Children’s March, Over the Hills and Far Away on the March 2
This lighthearted and fanciful march was one of the first works for concert
band to include piano as an integral part of the arrangement.
Tickets for the 8 pm March 2, 2013, performance of these piano and band
pieces at 51 Walden are $20 for adults and $10 for seniors and students and
will be available at the door or on line via the Concord Band website,
For additional information, contact Peter Norton,
Concord Band Publicity.
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