What makes American music so recognizably American, including the compositions for wind instruments on this special recording? Is it because it mirrors a multicultural nation? A nation of migrants from across the world, of slaves, and, not to forget, of the original Indian inhabitants?
In American music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, these cultures and styles encounter one another and intermingle, stretching from Charles Ives through Aaron Copland to John Adams. In contrast to Europe, traditions in America are less firmly anchored historically, since the nation is young and its musical history much shorter. Classical music in Europe was once something of a sacred bastion, as became quite clear in the 1920s and 1930s when that world was often shaken up by composers who liked to dilute their classical creations with generous dashes of jazz. Among them were Maurice Ravel, Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, and Paul Hindemith.
At first, there was resistance in the USA to the influence of jazz and blues on classical music, as experienced by Aaron Copland, who decamped for some time to Mexico. But the crossing between ‘serious’ and ‘light’ gradually became fluent in America, and audiences came to acknowledge that music may be well-sounding and rhythmically catching.
This recording offers a fine sampling of music from the United States for military band and illustrates this typical, multicolored American amalgam of folk music, religious hymns, jazz, blues, marches, and other military music.
On the present recording, Rhapsody in Blue is heard in the original version, as performed at the1924 premiere by Paul Whiteman’s jazz band, and scored for two clarinets, oboe, three saxophones, two horns, two trumpets, two trombones, tuba, percussion, banjo, violins, and double bass.
A piano roll made in 1925, featuring composer George Gershwin as the soloist (!) was discovered by chance. There was just one problem, however, for the roll comprised not only the solo part but also the accompaniment (piano) part. The 5,000 to 6,000 little perforations were sealed by Jan Bouman, and the result is nothing less than a revelation.
Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy
Major Arjan Tien, Conductor
George Gershwin, Piano Solo on Rhapsody In Blue (1925 Piano Roll)
—> Watch “The Making Of” video of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with George Gershwin’s own performance of the piano solo!Download booklet