The origins of that Gliss.

One supposes that everyone who plays the clarinet, as well as many music lovers, know the glissando that begins the Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin’s 1924 Masterpiece. I may receive more letters and questions concerning that gliss than many other clarinet issues. (elsewhere within these pages there is a link to the actual first recording by the Paul Whiteman Band . You can hear it right now, if you wish.) There are several different stories concerning those first performances. First, and probably foremost, is that it was never written as a glissando, simply (in the original score, by Ferde Grofe, who was the composer of the Grand Canyon Suite and many other works , which incidentally , also features the clarinet), it was written as a trill followed by 17 notes which culminate in the high C. In yet another entry, I call it the longest agogic accent ever written, and, indeed, it may be. The first part of a story is that the clarinetist who played the first performance was Ross Gorman, a member of the Whiteman band. Part A of the story is that Mr. Gorman had had a libation or two prior and made a joke of the scale, turning it into a glissando with the several following descending notes into a laugh-like joke. It was not written into the part. Never. Currently, it is performed in many different ways, but the correct way, that is to say,the way it is on the original recording, is an actual glissando fromthe D below the staff, all the way to the C. There is only one current recording which has it in this manner, for as you know, it is difficult to make a glissando cross the so-called “break ” in the clarinet. That recording is with the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fiedler, the clarinetist being named as Pasquale Cardillo, who was second clarinet in the Boston Symphony and principal in the Pops. It is a beautiful actual glissando, and was made on a Selmer (probably Centered Tone Clarinet), played by all members of the synphony and the Pops at the time. (of course, with the replacement of Gino Cioffi by Harold Wright, the clarinet was changed , along with the player, perhaps the most musical clarinetist then alive).

to be continued

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