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Thread: George Gershwin

  1. #1
    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Default George Gershwin

    Born in 1898 to Russian Jewish parents in New York, Gershwin started working as a 'song plugger' in Tin Pan Alley at the age of 15. Here he had his first big hit, Swanee. From 1924, he collaborated with his brother Ira on a series of successful musicals, which included Lady Be Good, Oh, Kay!, Funny Face, Strike up the Band, Show Girl, Girl Crazy and Of Thee I Sing, which won a Pulitzer Prize. 1924 was also the year he composed his most famous classical work, the Rhapsody in Blue for piano and orchestra. It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofe and played by Paul Whiteman's band.

    Gershwin travelled to Paris to receive tuition from Nadia Boulanger and Maurice Ravel. Here, he composed another famous work, An American in Paris. Following his return to the United States, he composed the folk opera Porgy and Bess in 1935. This work was not only revolutionary in its use of jazz and folk elements, but also the fact that it was written for a completely African American cast.

    Early in 1937, Gershwin began suffering from severe headaches, and a malignant brain tumour was diagnosed. He died in the middle of that year, following unsuccessful surgery to remove the tumour.

    According to Wikipedia, "in 2005, The Guardian determined using 'estimates of earnings accrued in a composer's lifetime' that George Gershwin was the richest composer of all time."

  2. #2
    Andante
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    What has always puzzled me is why he is listed as a Classical composer when as far as I can tell his music is pop, jazzy, and show music

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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    I think some of his compositions, like Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F, the Three Preludes, An American in Paris, and of course, Porgy and Bess are classical works as they are in the mainstream repertoire. Of course, many of his songs from the musicals have been covered by countless pop and jazz artists, so they aren't classical. But even in his lifetime, his compositions were conducted by people like Pierre Monteux and Otto Klemperer.
    QuietGuy likes this.

  4. #4
    Andante
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    But even in his lifetime, his compositions were conducted by people like Pierre Monteux and Otto Klemperer.
    That doe not mean a thing, The Beatles have also been played by countless classic conductors and orchestras but they are still pop.

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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andante View Post
    That doe not mean a thing, The Beatles have also been played by countless classic conductors and orchestras but they are still pop.
    If you go to a music store, the above compositions I have listed could be found in the classical section, maybe even the musicals. In the former works I mentioned, he is definitely a classcial composer writing in classical forms such as the rhapsody, concerto, preludes. The Beatles never composed like this. So I think it is right to include him amongst classical composers. He was, with Copland, Bernstein and Barber, the greatest American classical composer of his generation.

  6. #6
    Andante
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    I don't think you can put him in the same class as Copeland, Bernstein or Barber but if you are happy with that OK, to me he was a musical show writer a bit like Andrew Lloyd Webber I would guess that 90% of his output was for Broadway and tin pan alley.

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    Senior Member JoeGreen's Avatar
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    Well for one , he died at the age of 38!!!

    So that explains why his output on the classical side is a little low, but what he did do is definetly enough to place him alongside Copland, Bernstein and Barber. And had he lived on at least a decade or so he would've surely gone on to write far greater masterpieces.

    So I'm with Andre on this one. Porgy and Bess is such and amazing piece of work. Definetly not the work of your average Broadway tunesmith!
    QuietGuy likes this.
    I adore art...when I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds and the tears stream from my eyes, and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear.

  8. #8
    Andante
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    Well I disagree, but will not make an issue of it save to say If you earn your living as a Lawyer but do the odd stand in as a Trumpet player in the local orchestra for which you get paid what is your profession?? I say you are a Lawyer,

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    Okay, having read all of your posts, I would like to add my two bits, so to speak.

    George Gershwin was both a classical and a popular composer. He was also one of the most influential voices of American concert music of the 20th century alongside Ives, Copland and Carter, and in the popular world with Berlin, Kern, Porter, Richard Rodgers and Frederick Loewe.

    There are many who would put "Duke" Ellington above Gershwin when it comes to writing extended concert works in a jazz idiom, and indeed there are many who would love to put Ellington alongside the august company that I mentioned, either in classical or popular. But here we are about to open another kettle of fish which I'm sure will raise Andante's eyebrows all the more.

    Now for some facts -

    Gershwin was exposed to many contemporary composers of his time, both as a teenager and in his prime. He was one of the first American composers to discover and appreciate Alban Berg's genius at a time when very few people knew who he was on these shores, and in 1928 got the chance to meet with him in Vienna. Both men admired and respected each other's style of music. Had it not been for Berg, certain harmonic elements of his later songs (particularly those for the 1938 film The Goldwyn Follies) would not be as sophisticated as those of his peers, which in turn would inspire another composer, namely David Raksin, for his score for the film Laura (1944), which sounds like a cross between Gershwin and Berg had either man lived into the next decade.

    Moreover, Gershwin wanted to further his knowledge and strengthen his compositional technique by studying with someone whose reputation would give him that extra element that he lacked in his early works. Among the teachers he did study with were Rubin Goldmark (who in turn taught Aaron Copland before he headed to Paris), Henry Cowell and Joseph Schillinger. It was Schillinger's unique technique that helped to unlock Gershwin's talent further, resulting in the Cuban Overture, Variations on "I Got Rhythm" and, of course, Porgy and Bess.

    In 1935, Gershwin met Arnold Schoenberg, and again with this new friendship, which was further forged on the tennis courts, Gershwin began to study Schoenberg's unique methods of composition. Along with Alfred Newman, Gershwin financially produced the Kolisch Quartet's recording of the four published Schoenberg string quartets. An amateur painter as well, Gershwin paid further tribute by painting a powerful portrait of Schoenberg.

    Yes, he did die far too young, but he was also on the verge of shifting into a new and bold terrain of music that very few people understood, let alone liked. Would Gershwin adopt serial techniques? Would he have stopped writing popular songs? Would conductors still embrace his music?

    It is one of those questions that will forever remain unanswered.

    In conclusion, Gershwin cannot be compared to Andrew Lloyd Webber by any means. Yes, Lord Lloyd Webber was classically trained, more so than Gershwin (ALW's father was by far the better composer), but he chose his path not because he wanted to eat, but because he firmly believed, like Gershwin, that he could elevate the musical and popular song to a new level. Where the comparison ends is that ALW tends to allow formula rather than fertile imagination dictate his compositions, and Gershwin always came up with a surprise in all of his songs, and his concert works.

    Never sell George Gershwin short. He was a one-of-a-kind wonder.
    Bluerhapsody and QuietGuy like this.

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    Senior Member JoeGreen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andante View Post
    Well I disagree, but will not make an issue of it save to say If you earn your living as a Lawyer but do the odd stand in as a Trumpet player in the local orchestra for which you get paid what is your profession?? I say you are a Lawyer,
    Actually I'm a music student not a Lawyer.
    I adore art...when I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds and the tears stream from my eyes, and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear.

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    Senior Member JoeGreen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KScott View Post



    In 1935, Gershwin met Arnold Schoenberg, and again with this new friendship, which was further forged on the tennis courts, Gershwin began to study Schoenberg's unique methods of composition. Along with Alfred Newman, Gershwin financially produced the Kolisch Quartet's recording of the four published Schoenberg string quartets. An amateur painter as well, Gershwin paid further tribute by painting a powerful portrait of Schoenberg.
    Mmmh, That's interesting, I was never aware of Gershwin meeting Schoenberg.
    I adore art...when I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds and the tears stream from my eyes, and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear.

  12. #12
    Andante
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeGreen View Post


    Actually I'm a music student not a Lawyer.
    I did not say you were a Lawer

  13. #13
    Andante
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    Perhaps someone could list a dozen of Gershwin's best [in your opinion] Classical works,

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    Junior Member Mr Dull's Avatar
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    Using the day job to define some one isn't a good idea. Ives was an insurance salesman but wrote the odd bit of music to.

  15. #15
    Andante
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    Its not a matter of a 'Day job' it is what is your main source of income and how it is earned, if you spend 50hrs a week as an Engineer but a couple of hours playing or writing music you are an Engineer, it is that simple!

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