If you don’t know who George Gershwin is, then your will certainly recognise his music. The mastermind behind countless Hollywood scores, George Gershwin, along with his brother Ira brought the world “A foggy day,” “They can’t take that away from me” and the masterpiece, “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Written on a series of train trips between Brooklyn and Boston, Gershwin devised the iconic piece of American jazz, embedding the clickety-clack sensations of the train into the music and developing an uniquely American sound fueled by jazz and blues.

Conducted by the charming Bramwell Tovey, the audience was kept entertained with anecdotes while Tovey promoted a relaxed ambience not normally associated with classical music. Tovey’s most remarkable feat of musicality was to switch seamlessly between conducting the title piece and performing the melody on piano.

Gershwin’s music is so full of joy that it is impossible to be unhappy listening to it. Played impeccably by the MSO, David Jones added a touch of blues with his unorthodox use of a drum kit in classical music. Another quirky add on was Doug DeVries on the banjo, which was unfortunately lost amongst the horn section.

Geoffrey Payne as Principal Trumpet and Julie Raines on harp were as always spectacular, Raines’ haunting melodies were a highlight of the performance.

Playing all the classics including, “Strike up the Band” most famously belted out by Judy Garland in the 1940 film of the same name. The MSO also performed the suite from Gershwin’s final major work, The American Folk-Opera, Porgy and Bess.

Both Gershwin’s most famous musical and his biggest financial disaster, it would take 46 years to reach the city in which it was set, Charleston, South Carolina in 1970.

Listening to the music of “the singer of the songs of America’s soul” was the perfect ending to a Sunday. The matinee performance held at the State Theatre in Melbourne’s Arts Centre was the final of the three day run. The MSO once again pulled out all the stops for Rhapsody in Blue, and I can only hope that the lighthearted and soaring music of Gershwin remains a permanent fixture in their repertoire.


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra presents
Rhapsody in Blue
The MSO plays Gershwin & Friends

Monash University, Clayton
8pm, Friday 4 November 2011

The Arts Centre, State Theatre
7pm, Saturday 5 & 2pm Sunday 6 November, 2011

Bookings: www.mso.com.au