As I looked back at the sprawling smog-drenched cityscape of Los Angeles on that sweltering September afternoon, I knew in my heart that I was leaving forever and would never return.
This isn't the place to dissect the reasons why I left. It's merely a channel to release a surge of nostalgic fondness and golden memories - an arrangement in blue, with love.
Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin holds a significant place in my final year in California. It was the last thing that I ever performed there at a public concert (in August). It was also the music that was playing in my mind on that day as I gazed at the L.A. skyline for the last time.
For that reason, Rhapsody in Blue, for me, is synonymous with farewells.
I wrote a solo piano arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue when I was in my mid-twenties and living in Hollywood. It has become a personal favorite of all my piano arrangements, and the one that is the most difficult to play. The pianist does all the work - there's no orchestral backup.
Initially, I was never fond of Rhapsody in Blue. It just wasn't geared to my pianistic style. As I studied the music and wrote the arrangement, however, I grew to love it - and to fully appreciate Gershwin's unique harmonic genius.
I've made several recordings of my Rhapsody in Blue arrangement. The one on my recent YouTube video (above) was made (long ago) at a friend's private music studio nestled in the Hollywood Hills. It was near midnight on a hot summer night. After ingesting a few glasses of Madeira, I recorded it in one take with no edits. No easy task, considering the length and extreme difficulty of the piece - and the detrimental influence of my semi-inebriation.
Gershwin - 1898-1937
Bandleader Paul Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin to write a piece for piano and orchestra, which would be included in a concert at Aeolian Hall in New York. Gershwin began writing the music in January, 1924 - and the premiere took place on February 12th.
Since Gershwin wasn't completely adept at orchestration, he initially wrote the piece for two pianos. Composer Ferde Grofe (who wrote the Grand Canyon Suite) orchestrated the score for the premiere - and Gershwin improvised the piano part.
Grofe later revised his orchestration in 1926 and again in 1942. These are the arrangements that are most widely known today.
Gershwin originally called his composition American Rhapsody. It was his brother Ira who suggested the title Rhapsody in Blue. Ira was inspired by an exhibition of paintings by James Whistler - especially one entitled Arrangement in Grey and Black (better known as Whistler's Mother).
My solo piano arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue is a humble tribute to Gershwin - and one of my personal crowning musical achievements.