New York-based pianist Jeffrey Biegel delivers a performance. Biegel has performed with many of the world's leading orchestras, and will be playing the playing the piano solo of "Rhapsody in Blue" with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra on opening night.
Maestro Raffaeli Ponti conducts the Paducah Symphony Orchestra in a performance at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center during their 2011-2012 season. A total of 73 musicians, along with guest pianist Jeffrey Biegel, will be performing George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" for the opening of the 2012-2013 season on Saturday.
For years, something has been missing from George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” As it turns out, that “something” is the music.
More than 50 measures have been cut from Gershwin’s original composition since it was written in 1924, said Paducah Symphony Orchestra conductor Raffaele Ponti. This saved time for record producers, but left the piece lacking coherence.
The omitted measures have been re-introduced to the version the symphony will perform Saturday. “It makes so much more sense that you’ll never want to hear the chopped up version again,” Ponti said.
PSO’s guest pianist, Jeffrey Biegel, said he made some surprising discoveries when he first encountered the missing measures, most of which occur in the piano solos. “The version we came to know would say, ‘getting gradually slower,’ where the original manuscript said ‘getting gradually faster,’ which makes more sense musically,” Biegel said. The ending is also different, he added, giving more of a vaudevillian feel to the composition.
Although the revelation changed the pianist’s approach to playing Gershwin, the symphony does not expect it to change audience response.
“Not only does it touch the hearts and souls of audiences; it’s also a piece that they can hum or sing. The melodies are very recognizable, and it’s very appealing,” Biegel said of “Rhapsody in Blue.”
Biegel described the piece — which took inspiration from the sounds of the train on which Gerswhin began composing it — as a jazzy integration of popular and classical music.
According to Ponti, bringing in concerts that feature such works as “Rhapsody in Blue” is part of his larger plan to make the symphony a success.
“I think by bringing these eclectic programs ... and engaging the community, this is making the symphony very exciting in Paducah, and this is why things are on the rise,” Ponti said.
This year’s season ticket sales — the highest ever, according to PSO executive director Daniel Sene — reflect the renewed enthusiasm for the symphony in Paducah.
Sene has high hopes for opening night, which will also include performances of Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio italien” and Giuseppe Martucci’s Symphony No. 1 in D Minor.
“I think we’re going to start out with a very sizable crowd. It’s going to respond to the very recognizable piece, and I think our patrons are really excited to get the season started,” Sene said.
Call Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.
Want to go?
Who: Jeffrey Biegel, guest pianist
What: Opening night of the Paducah Symphony Orchestra
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8
Where: The Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center, 100 Kentucky Ave.
For more details, visit www.paducahsymphony.org or call 270-444-0065.