Andrew Litton, conductor
Home Biography Engagements Reviews Recordings News Insights Gallery Contact

Litton considers Gershwin a neighbor

Conductor grew up near home where composer lived when he wrote Rhapsody

by Whitney Smith, Music Critic of the IndyStar

ISO guest conductor Andrew Litton will conduct Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2, and will lead Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" from the piano Thursday through Jan. 7 in Hilbert Circle Theatre.

Plenty of pianists young and old play George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, but that doesn't bother a veteran American conductor who has always felt close to the jazzy symphonic favorite.

"I'm a New York City boy who grew up a block and a half from where Gershwin was living when he wrote it," said Andrew Litton, who will conduct Rhapsody from the piano in concert with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra starting Thursday at Hilbert Circle Theatre.

"Gershwin has always been my man," Litton said. "I would love to have been alive in his heyday. Not that I want to experience the Great Depression, but to have been in that sort of atmosphere, when he was at the top of his game."

As things turned out, Litton, music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, was not born until 1959, more than 20 years after Gershwin's death. However, as pianist and conductor, Litton has spent his share of time getting to know Gershwin's memorable melodies and rhythmic genius. For one thing, he conducted the Covent Garden premiere of the opera Porgy and Bess in London in 1992. But considering that Rhapsody is in the repertoire of so many pianists, what could one more artist possibly have to say?

"I think about the way it was written, which was in a panic," Litton said. "He forgot about the commission of the piece completely. He had never written for orchestra before. At the first performance, he basically improvised the piano parts."

"Even though I play what has been handed down by the publisher and Gershwin himself, when he finally did write it down, I still try to think about how he played it to give it that element of jazz, surprise and improvisation. That's always been my approach to the piece."

Originally printed in the on January 1, 2006.
Copyright © 2006 All rights reserved.

Other insights

February 2018
Why West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein resonates with 21st-century music lovers

July 2017
Andrew Litton, Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s new principal guest conductor, is humbled by the power of music

July 2016
Maestro Andrew Litton takes us behind the scenes of Sommerfest 2016

January 2016
The conductor Andrew Litton, finding a different tempo

October 2015
Andrew Litton: a portrait of the artist as a mature conductor

July 2015
Still Going Strong: Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra at 250

December 2014
Andrew Litton to Lead New York City Ballet Orchestra

October 2014
Watch the YouTube videos from Rhinegold LIVE of Andrew performing selections from A Tribute to Oscar Peterson

September 2014
Colorado Symphony trades busy offseason for big Beethoven opener

May 2014
Podcast: Andrew Litton swaps his conducting baton for the piano for his latest recording, an album dedicated to the great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

May 2014
A Tribute to Oscar Peterson

April 2014
Transcribin’ the Blues

January 2014
The Broncos and the Colorado Symphony, both winning teams

April 2013
New Colorado Symphony Orchestra conductor Andrew Litton is a modern maestro

February 2013
Andrew Litton on bringing the Bergen Philharmonic to Edinburgh

January 2013
How the Norse code was cracked; Andrew Litton tells Ivan Hewett about achieving his goal of putting the Bergen Philharmonic on the musical map

January 2013
Karl Bohm is remembered fondly by Andrew Litton

December 2012
Andrew appears on BBC Radio3’s documentary, “Tchaikovsky’s 1812: A Dishonest Overture?” on Dec. 1st

November 2012
Colorado Symphony’s New Artistic Advisor Excited About The Holidays

September 2012
Andrew discusses Russian music, his career with Bergen, and upcoming concert with the NZSO with Radio New Zealand

June 2012
The June Gramophone Podcast asks Andrew about his 100th CD (starts at 23:30)

October 2011
Having some musical fun: virtuoso percussionist Martin Grubinger notes that this is the first time a Chief Conductor appears on stage as a bass marimba player

April 2011
TheArtsDesk Q&A: Conductor Andrew Litton

March 2011
Norwegians Can! Conducting the Bergen Philharmonic.

February 2011
Andrew discusses life with the Bergen Philharmonic with Edward Seckerson, (MP3)

October 2010
Andrew talks with ABC Classic FM’s Margaret Throsby about the joys of classical music, (MP3)

July 2010
Bach, re-imagined

April 2010
Musicians on the moments that changed them: Andrew Litton meets Oscar Peterson

March 2010
WUNC-FM’s Catherine Brand talks with Andrew Litton about the music and friendship of Vaughan Williams and Holst, (MP3)

March 2010
Andrew discusses the “Music that changed me” with BBC Music

March 2010
Andrew tells Opera Magazine “Wish I’d been there when...”

February 2010
Q & A with BBC Music Magazine’s Daniel Jaffé

January 2010
Jeremy Nicholas discusses the real George Gershwin with Andrew, as featured on the cover CD of January’s Gramophone Magazine, 34:03 (MP3)

August 2007
North Star: How does it feel to step into the shoes of a national treasure?

February 2007
Andrew reminisces about his favorite experiences with the DSO
(streaming video)

January 2007
NACOcast: Andrew chats with NAC’s Christopher Millard, 20:00 (MP3)

July 2006
Artistic director Andrew Litton seeks to make the music festival fun

July 2006
Sommerfest director’s credo: Classical music can be fun

March 2006
BBC Radio 4: In Tune with Sean Rafferty, 17:01 (MP3)

February 2006
Passed Up by the NSO, Concerto For Contrabassoon Premieres in Norway

January 2006
Litton considers Gershwin a neighbor

December 2005
New developments on ENO Music Directorship

December 2005
ENO regrets? No, just plans

July 2005
My First Opera: Lucia di Lammermoor

January 2005
Denver latest stop for conductor Litton

October 2004
MPR: Andrew Litton’s guide to the Shostakovich 8th forum discussion, 50:55 (WMA)

May 2004
What’s next for Andrew Litton?

August 1997
BBC Radio 3: In Tune with Anthony Burton, 16:08 (MP3)

August 1997
BBC Radio 4: Kaleidoscope with Paul Gambaccini, 7:53 (MP3)

September 1995
Dallas Symphony Dynamo

August 1994
The Linking of Litton and Gershwin

August 1993
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie

January 1993
The Young One

February 26, 1988
Conduct So Becoming