Words fail me. This is either the most over-rated piece of musical chaos, or sheer genius, far removed from the aural abilities of mere men. It rises and falls, a piece strung together by the awesome delivery of its theme – the overriding chorus if you will.
Yet, at its centre, it remains very hollow; the lilting piano seems plaintive, the clarinet quintet a tribe of sycophants which hang on every word, or note, of their master.
The rest of the orchestra combines in servitude to be most slobberingly obedient.
Where, where is the power of an orchestra? What it lacks isn’t uniqueness; in fact, it might have too much of it. But nor is it a celebration of the piano in isolation. The piano is the Mona Lisa of musical instruments; she, most achingly beautiful at her loneliest. She mightn’t be the dutiful wife, nor the temptress. The piano is virtue itself.
And what of the violins? Must they come in late, an afterthought? What was Gershwin thinking? No, no, no! I must have violins. I must! But why, when their only purpose is to provide a note or two?
But why Gershwin, did you neglect the trumpet? The trumpet remains the faithful page; he announces most honourably the advent of the maestro. Then he fades. Gershwin has instead, killed it. Killed the page boy. That naïve instrument.
Through it all, Rhapsody in Blue has you sitting not quite on the edge of your seat. You sit up, and listen. But may you rise? It is disturbing. It moves you not until it reaches the climax, wherein you’re most awkwardly perched atop your seat. And then, it has you rooted. It is illicit. Which is why it works. And why it fails.
And you shall listen again…