Friday, July 3, 2015

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Sanromá, Fiedler)

Cover design by Peter Arno (?)
For the Fourth of July holiday weekend, I offer that most quintessentially American concert work in its first recording with pretensions to completeness - and a smashing performance, at that. Jesús Maria Sanromá's way with this music is so full of panache and improvisational flair that it is almost like hearing it for the first time, and most subsequent recordings seem to me staid by comparison. Sanromá was the official pianist of the Boston Pops at the time that organization's first recordings were made, and, in fact, this version of the Rhapsody comes from the Pops' very first day of sessions:

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Jesús Maria Sanromá, piano, with the
Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
Recorded July 1, 1935
Gershwin: Strike Up the Band
Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
Recorded July 3, 1935
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-358, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 52.44 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 33.70 MB)

As I said, this is the first recording of the Rhapsody with pretensions to completeness, with only two minor cuts made. The piece had, of course, been recorded many times before, in a dizzying array of arrangements (including Larry Adler on the harmonica, Jesse Crawford on the Wurlitzer organ, and the Eight Piano Ensemble, whose version can be heard at the CHARM website), but all of these, including Gershwin's own recording with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, abridged the piece to fit onto two sides.

Ken Halperin's blog shows an alternate cover design for this set, which he believes might be by Steinweiss. My copy of the set has the one pictured above, but lacking its front cover, as the previous owner wished to keep it for framing! Fortunately, the back cover is identical, except for having the spine binding on the right instead of the left. This was Victor's practice during the early 1940s with its pictorial album covers.


  1. Alternate links:



  2. Thank you very much! I look forward to listening to this. Best wishes, Grumpy

  3. Happy Fourth!!! Thanks for this!

  4. I wonder who did the Strike up the Band arrangement.

    1. I would like to know that myself. It reminds me of the "Looney Tunes" theme with that xylophone going all over the place!

    2. somewhere around I have a copy of the 1960s stereo recording they made. I will see if there is some attribution there, IF it appears to be the same arrangement.

  5. Hi; thanks for posting a nice big scan - the cover art is by Joe Krush. You can see it in a new documentary about him on youtube at 10:52 while he's talking about his career.