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The name Charles Hambitzer might not be familiar to you, but he is one of the hundreds of unsung musical heroes who fall into that enlightened category of teachers who not only can recognise true genius when they see it, but who also do something – plenty, in fact – about it.
Hambitzer took on George Gershwin when his pupil was just fourteen years old. Immediately, he realised the level of talent he had on his hands. He made sure Gershwin went to concerts and gave him significant pieces to learn by the great composers for the piano. The effort certainly paid off. Working first as a song plugger in New York’s Tin Pan alley, and studying harmony and counterpoint for nearly ten years, Gershwin went on to compose musicals, films, jazz and classical music. Whatever he tried his hand at, he managed to turn out music that was a cut above average.
Rhapsody in Blue was premiered by Paul Whiteman’s concert band in New York in1924. Today, the work is a permanent fixture of the repertoire, with its infusion of jazz and classical music and its distinctly New York sound.