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Gershwin

A true American original! Join us for a week-long look at the life and soulful music of George Gershwin, including his Rhapsody in BlueAn American in Paris and Porgy and Bess.

 
Program 1

Though George Gershwin spent much of his time at the piano, he also painted, collected art, golfed, danced and loved photography. Born as Jacob Gershowitz in 1898 in New York, his father later Americanized the name to George Gershwin. George fell in love with the piano at an early age and as a teenager, worked as a song plugger, someone who performs a piece for a customer interested in buying the sheet music.

Once Gershwin was an established name, he decided to get further composition instruction. He studied with Charles Hambitzner who guided Gershwin through harmony and counterpoint. He also later studied with Rubin Goldmark.

 

 

Interview with Ira Gershwin (excerpt)
Facet 8100
:49
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Gershwin: I Got Rhythm 
Bolcom, p.
Nonesuch 79151
1:17
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Dvorák: Humoresques, Op. 101 No.7 (excerpt)
Golub, p.
Arab 6706
1:15
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Interview with Ira Gershwin
Facet 8100
:57
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Joplin: The Ragtime Dance
Rifkin, p.
Nonesuch 79159
1:05
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Herbert: Naughty Marietta (excerpts)
Philharmonia Orch/Foster; Hendricks, s.
EMI 54626
2:43, :35
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Romberg: “Drink, Drink, Drink” fr. The Student Prince
Orch & Chorus/Callinicos; Lanza, ten.
RCA 60048
1:01
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Friml: “The Donkey Serenade” fr. Firefly
Orch/Rene; Lanza, ten.
Sony/BMG
1:44
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Cohan: George M! Overture
NYC Opera Orch/Gemignani
Music Masters 67099
3:14
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Handy: St. Louis Blues
K. H. Handy, voc.
Smithsonian Folkways 3540
1:52
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Joplin: The Ragtime Dance
Rifkin, p.
Nonesuch 79159
:52
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Gershwin: Rialto Ripples
Gershwin, p.
Nonesuch 79370
1:53
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Berlin: Alexander’s Ragtime Band
Smith, voc.
Sony 64922
:55
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Gershwin: Swanee
Orch/Dragon; Jolson, voc.
West End 872
1:52
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Gershwin: Lullaby for String Orchestra
St. Louis Symphony/Slatkin
Vox 5007
7:22
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Interview with Paul Whiteman
Facet 8100
2:27, :40
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Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
LA Phil/Bernstein
DG 410025
17:09
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Gershwin: Rialto Ripples (excerpt)
Gershwin, p.
Nonesuch 79370
:56
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Program 2

America falls in love with jazz in the mid 1920s, around the time of original performance of Rhapsody in Blue. Scott Fitzgerald calls it the "age of jazz."

Gershwin follows Rhapsody in Blue with the Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra. The first movement employs the Charleston rhythm and Gershwin calls the second movement "a poetic, nocturnal atmosphere which has come to be referred to as the American blues."

 

 

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (excerpt)
LA Phil/Bernstein
DG 410025
1:10
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Milhaud: La Creation du Monde (excerpts)
Lyon Opera Orch/Nagano
Ultima 21347
2:58
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Copland: Piano Concerto, II
Seattle Symphony/Schwarz; Hollander, p.
Delos 3154
9:46
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Gershwin: Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra, I & II
San Francisco SO/Tilson Thomas; Ohlsson, p.
RCA 68931
13:31, 13:06
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Bernstein: Lonely Town fr. On the Town
NY Phil/Bernstein
DG 431737
3:25
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Interview with Fred Astaire
Facet 8100
:32
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Gershwin: Oh Lady Be Good
Fitzgerald, voc.
Verve 52981
4:00
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Gershwin: Fascinatin’ Rhythm fr. Virtuoso Variations
Wild, p.
Phil 436991
1:27
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Gershwin: Preludes for Piano (excerpt)
LSO/Williams; Bell, v.
Sony 707416
1:41
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Program 3

Fellow composer and close friend Oscar Levant described Gershwin as a natural. The final movement of Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra returns to the opening theme that uses the Charleston rhythm.

Gershwin then writes the tone poem An American in Paris. He had spent time in Paris from 1926-28 where he visited his friend Maurice Ravel. Ravel is a huge fan of American jazz thanks to Gershwin. Ravel quotes a blues line heard at end of An American in Paris in one of his later works. 

Next, Gershwin starts an unintentional songwriting partnership with his brother, Ira. Ira writes the lyrics and George writes music. I Got Rhythm becomes a huge hit and Charlie Parker writes at least 17 tunes over the chord changes. These changes have become known to jazz performers as "rhythm changes." However, Gershwin certainly did not invent the I Got Rhythm chord changes. They have been around for centuries and can be heard distinctly in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis

 

Interview with Oscar Levant
Facet 8100
:59
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Gershwin: Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra, II (excerpt)
San Francisco SO/Tilson Thomas; Ohlsson, p.
RCA 68931
1:43, :52
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Gershwin: Concerto in F, III
NY Phil/Kostelanetz; Levant, p.
CBS 42514
6:25
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Gershwin: An American in Paris
NY Phil/Bernstein
Sony 63086
18:22
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Ravel: Sonata for Violin and Piano- Blues
Klibonoff, p.; Bachman, v.
Endeavour 1020
5:30
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Gershwin: S’Wonderful
London, voc.
Pid 707640
1:35
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Gershwin: Biding My Time
Laine, voc.
Gold 8017
4:04
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Interview with George Gershwin
Amerco 512923A
:53

Gershwin: I Got Rhythm
Merman, voc.
Pid 611931
1:00
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Beethoven: Missa Solemnis (excerpt)
NY Phil & Westminster Choir/Bernstein
Sony 47533
1:22
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Interview & Performance w/ G. Gershwin
Amerco 512923A
6:47

Gershwin: Variations on I Got Rhythm
Menuhin & Grappelli, vlns.
EMI 85081
2:59
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Program 4

Gershwin is still interested in continuing his composition studies, and asks Ravel if he can study with him. Scheduling issues prevailed until Ravel eventually came to the U.S to work with Gershwin.

At the time, Gershwin was living in California, working for Fox Pictures on a score that needed a depiction of life in New York City, specifically the building of skyscrapers. He composed Manhattan Rhapsody, what he deemed as a "serious composition." It was premiered in Boston in 1932 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and was well received. However, it got poor reviews from the New York critics.

Gershwin then began work on the opera Porgy and Bess, based on a novel by DuBose Heyward. The novel showcases the Gullah language. Gershwin took up residence on Folly Island while working on Porgy and Bess, where he heard people speaking Gullah. As a result of this trip, Gershwin decided to assemble a completely African Amercian cast for the opera's debut.

 

 

 

 

Gershwin: Rhapsody #2 for Piano and Orchestra
LA Phil/Thomas; Thomas, p.
CBS 39699
14:13
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Interview and Performance with G. Gershwin
Amerco 512923A
1:05

Gershwin: The Man I Love
Billie Holiday & her Orchestra
Legacy 89913
3:08
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Gershwin: Porgy & Bess (excerpts)
LPO/Rattle
EMI 749568
4:25
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Gershwin: “Summertime” fr. Porgy & Bess
Orch. of St. Luke’s/Previn; Battle, s.
DG 437787
2:31
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Gershwin: “Bess, You is My Woman Now” fr. Porgy & Bess rehearsal
Orch/Gershwin; Duncan, bar.; Brown, s.
Amerco 512923A
5:09
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Gershwin: It Ain’t Necessarily So
Orch/Smallens; Tibbett, bar.
RCA 62376
3:03
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Gershwin, arr. Heifetz: It Ain’t Necessarily So
Previn, p.; Mutter, v.
DG 471500
2:38
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Gershwin: Sweet & Low Down
LSO/Williams; Bell, v.
Sony 60659
3:35
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Gershwin: Our Love is Here to Stay
LSO/Williams; Bell, v.
Sony 60659
3:47
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Gershwin: Our Love is Here to Stay
Blossom Dearie
Verve 517223
3:12
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Gershwin: There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York
Cab Calloway, voc.
Legacy 89913
2:19
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Program 5

Porgy and Bess opens in New York in 1935, but at the Alvin Theatre instead of at an opera house. It ran for 124 performances, a huge number for an opera. However, it still didn't cover the costs of its investments and lost $70,000. It received mixed reviews from critics.

Gershwin died at the age of 37 with astonishing suddenness. Near the end of his life in February 1938, he was working a lot on the West Coast. He stumbled and nearly fell off the podium while conducting a rehearsal with the L.A. Philharmonic, and that night during the performance of his Concerto in F, he stumbled over chords in his piano part. His friends and family were worried and took him to a doctor for a check-up. However, they found nothing. That spring, Gershwin experienced increasingly severe headaches, and the constant smell of burning rubber. He died suddenly of a brain tumor.

 

Gershwin: Bess, You Is My Woman Now fr. Porgy & Bess
RCA Victor SO/Henderson; Price, s.; Warfield, bar.
RCA 62699
5:10
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Gershwin: I Loves You Porgy
Orch of St. Luke’s/Previn; Battle, s.
DG 437787
2:17
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Gershwin: I Loves You Porgy
Bill Evans Trio
Riverside 4443
5:56
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Gershwin: Someone to Watch Over Me
Turrin, p.; Smith, tpt.
Cala 0516
3:41
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Gershwin: But Not For Me
LSO/Williams; Bell, v.
Sony 60659
4:21
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Gershwin: Hello, Good Morning
Walter, p.
Atlantic LP 8016
2:10

Gershwin: Mine
Ens/Dick Hyman, p.
Legacy 89913
2:56
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Gershwin: It Ain’t Necessarily So
Joe Chindamo, p.
6:41
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Gershwin: A Foggy Day
Clooney, voc.
Legacy 89913
2:51
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Gershwin: How Long Has This Been Going On?
Ens./Allyson, voc.
Concord 2016
5:38
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Gershwin: They Can’t Take That Away From Me
Astaire, voc.
Legacy 89913
3:08
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Interview with Oscar Levant
Facet 8100
:33
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Gershwin: Prelude for Piano #2
Gershwin, p.
Amerco 512923A
2:20

Gershwin: Oh Lawd, I’m On My Way fr. Porgy and Bess
LPO/Rattle
EMI 49568
1:22
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