A concert interview with soloist
"Rhapsody in Blue paints a portrait of all that which is beautiful, positive and admirable about America and Gershwin’s beloved New York City." — Katie Mahan
Since making her orchestral debut performing Gershwin’s Concerto in F with the Breckenridge Symphony, Katie Mahan has appeared in concert throughout the USA, Europe, Canada, the Middle East, Russia and Japan.
A multi-faceted artist for whom music is an endless passion, she is at home in a broad repertoire, and Mahan is particularly distinguished as an interpreter of the music of George Gershwin, Claude Debussy and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
JSO: Rhapsody in Blue is celebrating its centennial -- 100 years of world-wide appeal! Why is this piece unlike any other?
Katie Mahan: "Rhapsody in Blue is arguably the most iconic piece of American music ever written. In this work, Gershwin captures the spirit of America by combining influences from both his own immigrant heritage and from the diverse American heritage to form an artistic unity that not only joins the classical and popular music of the time, but also paints a portrait of all that which is beautiful, positive and admirable about America and Gershwin’s beloved New York City."
What 3 words best describe Rhapsody in Blue?
KM: "Iconic, groundbreaking, enduring."
What are 2 moments audiences should anticipate when listening live?
KM: "The famous opening clarinet solo and the beautiful New York theme that we all hear on United Airlines." 😉
"I encourage you to bring your children along with you to the concert! They are our future and are responsible for keeping the music alive for the next generations!"
George Gershwin composed Rhapsody in Blue at a furious pace — in just under 5 weeks! Have you ever had only 5 weeks, or a moment's notice, to prepare a piece of music for performance?
KM: "In 2018, I was invited by Deutsche Grammophon to record the complete solo piano works of Leonard Bernstein. Up to that point, I knew very little of Bernstein’s original solo piano works, and had played none of them!
"I had 6 weeks to learn and record the complete repertoire of over 75 mins! It was a lot of work, but an incredible and wonderful experience. I discovered a treasure of rarely played music, and am incredibly proud of the album."
Listen and Explore
Leonard Bernstein composed this piece on the occasion of his friend's birthday. In the manuscript, he penned two dedications: one at the top, which reads "for Mildred, 21," and another at the end, expressing his sentiments with "with all my heart—L.B."
Katie Mahan’s debut album on the Steinway label, "Classical Gershwin", features solo piano music of George Gershwin. The video opens with the arrival of an old steam engine like Gershwin would have taken in 1924, and proceeds to take the viewer on a journey through Gershwin’s world.
What is 1 reason (or more) why “life is better with music?”
KM: "Music incorporates every known human emotion, speaks the unspeakable, and builds a bridge from the earthly to the sublime. It inspires beauty and desire, and has a power to unite people because it speaks to the common ground of all mankind, namely the soul."
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us, or with our symphony audiences?
KM: "I encourage you to bring your children along with you to the concert! They are our future and are responsible for keeping the music alive for the next generations!"