Houston Matters

Rhapsody in Blue at 100

The Houston Symphony celebrates composer George Gershwin and the centennial of one of his most famous works.

Poster advertising George Gershwin symphony concert
Houston Symphony
“Jazz, Love & Gershwin: A Century of Rhapsody in Blue” features the Marcus Roberts Trio and singer Catherine Russell.

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In the 1920s, the relatively new music genre known as jazz was rapidly becoming more popular throughout the United States. And on Feb. 12, 1924, the worlds of jazz and classical music met in Aeolian Hall in New York City with the momentous premiere of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

The piece was an immediate success for audiences, and it has since become one of the composer’s most famous works. Though it was initially written for piano and jazz band, it is most often performed with a full symphony orchestra.

Composer George Gershwin at the piano
AP
George Gershwin, the modern composer best known for “Rhapsody in Blue,” shown at the piano in 1937.

With three concerts this weekend, the Houston Symphony celebrates the 100 years since the premiere of the piece, performing it and other famous works by Gershwin with the Marcus Roberts Trio and jazz vocalist Catherine Russell. Pianist Marcus Roberts and his trio will present their unique take on the rhapsody, infusing more distinctly jazz elements into the work.

In the audio above, producer Joshua Zinn talks with Roberts about his first exposure to Gershwin’s music, what draws him to Rhapsody in Blue, and how he got started on piano in the first place.