Maine pianist Yuri Funahashi to perform Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with SLLMF music director Mihae Lee. Submitted photo

Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival will hold the fourth concert of its 51st season at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 1, at Deertrees Theatre in Harrison.

Featured composers are Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Gershwin and Saint-Saens.

The program includes:

SCHUBERT: String Trio in Bb, D. 471
RACHMANINOFF: Trio élégiaque No.1 in G Minor
GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue for Piano Four-hands
SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Quartet in B-Flat major, Op. 4

Artists are Keiko Tokunaga, violin; Matthew Sinno, viola; Bonnie Thron, cello; Yuri Funahashi, piano and Mihae Lee, piano.

Many European composers were inspired by American jazz, but it was American composer George Gershwin who captured its essence by taking classical music into the Jazz Age. Gershwin began his career in Tin Pan Alley, where his genius for melody had him spinning out song after unforgettable song – “Swanee,” “Lady Be Good,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” and more. He had bigger dreams, though. In addition to being a gifted musical-theater entertainer, he was a serious student of 20th-century classical music.


Gershwin’s dream was to marry classical and popular music. His first attempt to bring jazz into the concert hall was his most famous: Rhapsody in Blue. The work was a commission from the bandleader Paul Whiteman, who shared Gershwin’s ambition to elevate jazz by giving it a classical respectability, and who wanted a new orchestral work for an upcoming concert called “An Experiment in Modern Music.” In the packed hall on opening night were many musical celebrities, including Rachmaninoff, another composer being performed by SLLMF on August 1. The audience sat rapt from the beginning and at the end went wild. Gershwin later wrote that when he began to work on the rhapsody, he “heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America – of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our blues, our metropolitan madness.” It’s that vision, successfully carried out, that makes Rhapsody in Blue an iconic portrait of Jazz Age America in all its exuberance and dance-driven vitality.

It doesn’t take a full orchestra to capture the multitude of charms of “Rhapsody in Blue.” As this SLLMF performance will show, four hands are more than enough to convey the pleasures of a composition that has become probably the best-known American concert work of the 20th century.  To be performed by pianists Yuri Funahashi and Mihae Lee, the “Rhapsody in Blue for Four Hands” is a certain hit every time.

Funahashi is a Maine resident who has been on the faculty of Colby College for many years. She presently serves as co-chair of Colby’s department of music and teaches piano and chamber music. Mihae Lee is music director of SLLMF and has been for six years. In addition, she heads up the Essex Winter Series in Connecticut. Both artists have performed worldwide.

Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival performs Tuesdays at 7:30 pm at Deertrees Theatre in Harrison for the next two weeks: Aug. 1 and 8. For more information about the festival and to order tickets, go to Tickets can also be purchased the evening of the concert at the box office.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.