Getting Gershwin


Just for the sheer delight of it, here’s Israeli pianist and musicologist Astrith Baltsan explaining Gershwin to the audience before performing Rhapsody in Blue with the Israel Philharmonic. This was broadcast on television years ago but I just saw it for the first time. Well worth a watch.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Thanks for linking to that wonderful performance. Nice to see the kids paying attention!

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  2. Profile Photo Member

    Were she a rabbi she could not have given a better sermon. With music there is always hope for humankind.

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    Very cool.

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  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    I recall that Gershwin, when asked how he composed such incredible music, responded “I just write what I hear in my head”.   Ms. Baltsan communicated the essence of this very well in explaining the roots of where Gershwin got his inspiration.  The swirling milleu that is American culture has as its’ great strength its’ ability to adapt and embrace elements from other cultures & its’ own environment to create something both connected to the past and utterly new and fresh.  When you think of Rhapsody in Blue, one asks: Is it jazz, classical, Broadway, pop?  It’s all of the above.  One of my favorite memories is the 1984 Olympics in LA when they had 84 baby blue grand pianos playing Rhapsody in Blue at once, completely enraptured with the grandeur and joy of it all.  Thanks, Judith.

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  5. Profile Photo Member

    I loved it. Thank you for posting.

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  6. Profile Photo Member

    Utterly charming, and I was happy to share this, rather than the depressing news that too often comes to my attention,  with friends and family.

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  7. Profile Photo Inactive


    Astrith Baltsan has got Gershwin pegged.  It’s a love affair with America 100%.  Rhapsody in Blue is a fabulous piece of music in love with a fabulous country.

    However, it appears that the Russians prefer Irving Berlin.

    Thanks Judith,


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  8. Profile Photo Inactive

    This is magnificent.

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  9. Profile Photo Inactive

    I was sent this only last Sunday.. Astrith touching the spirit .. coincidences will they never cease. She’s quite a gal.

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  10. Profile Photo Member

    Wow. There’s an endless supply of pleasant surprises here on Ricochet. I’d never heard of this delightful woman and performer before.

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  11. Profile Photo Inactive

    Brian, it reminds me of home and childhood, too, only for me it was Dad. He played it with great gusto, especially with his very strong left hand! He explained to me many times how unique it was. He has been gone for 35 years and I cannot hear that wonderful piece of music – or any Gershwin, frankly – without immediately feeling again the joy it gave me to listen and watch him.

    Thanks, Judith.

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  12. Profile Photo Contributor

    It’s even more remarkable to see a foreigner “get” Gershwin. When I was a teenager, my father brought home a CD he picked out of the bargain box. Rhapsody in Blue, performed by some little-known Eastern European orchestra. It sounded very, well, Eastern European — and very wrong. This not only sounds very right, but hearing the process of deconstruction and reconstruction (on a level children can understand, no less), you can see a wonderful synthesis of intellect and spirit.

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  13. Profile Photo Member
    Fabulous! insightful and great! I have two wishes:– the entire performance was here, and

    – the piano was mixed better in the recording – it is drowned out by the orchestra. And she is some pianist.

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  14. Profile Photo Reagan

    Goosebump-provoking! How energetically and crisply the orchestra plays. The pianist could give Paganini and his fiddle a run for their money. Great post.

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  15. Profile Photo Member

    Ritalin could have fixed this.

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  16. Profile Photo Member

    Thanks for sharing this, Judith. George Gershwin died at 38. I still mourn our loss.

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  17. Profile Photo Inactive

    Great stuff. My mother is a classically trained pianist and Rhapsody in Blue is her favorite though, sadly she can’t play it anymore. I grew up hearing it almost everyday in our home. She attacked it with the tenacity it requires. She was a foreceful pianist. To this day I am perhaps hyper critical of performances that slur or soft-pedal many of the notes in the piece. 

    Thanks for posting this. It brought back many fond memories.

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