Showing posts with label George Gershwin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label George Gershwin. Show all posts

Monday, July 8, 2019

GEORGE GERSHWIN - Prolific Songwriter and Musical Maestro

English: George Gershwin (1898 – 1937), an Ame...
George Gershwin (1898 – 1937), an American composer 

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George Gershwin was born on the 26th of September, 1986 in Brooklyn, New York. His roots were a mix of Ukrainian and Jewish roots, from Russia. The key to his interest was a violin recital by his childhood pal Max Rozen. He liked what he had heard. His parents bought a piano for his brother and future lyricist, Ira Gershwin. He took it from there and took to it more than his brother Ira.

Gershwin came from a family that had music in their blood. In addition to his brother getting into music, his sister too, started taking it up early in life but gave it up in favor of family life. Gershwin was tutored by a number of tutors who didn't make much of an impact on him and his music until he met his last piano teacher - Charles Hambitzer. Hambitzer taught him the proper way of playing the piano.

Paving his knowledge of European music history, introduced him to the music of the past and encouraged him to attend a concert when he could. When he eventually did this, he was quick at reproducing the same music note of note after returning home after the concert. He also studied with Rubin Goldmark and Henry Cowell.

When 15, George quit school and started working at Jerome H. Remick and Company as a "song-plugger" where he took a salary of $15 a week. His first commercial success was tasted with Rialto Ripples in 1917 but he really hit it big time in 1919 with his composition Swanee, which shot him to fame all over the United States.

In 1916, he worked with Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls doing the recording and arranging piano rolls. There is no official count of the rolls that he came up with, but it is said that he has hundreds of piano rolls to his credit. He credited his work here with a number of aliases - some which were Fred Murtha and Bert Wynn. He made rolls for reproducing pianos made by Duo-Art and Welte Mignon. He had a small little stint getting into vaudevilles playing pieces by Nora Bayes and Louise Dresser most often at the vaudeville shows that he performed at.

In 1924, he and brother Ira worked on their first musical together - a comedy - Lady be Good. The songs from Lady Be Good - Fascinating Rhythm and the title track Lady Be Good - were soon to be standards. Then on, a string of musical followed with most of them being very successful. Some of them are Girl Crazy, Strike Up the Band, Funny Face, Show Girl and Oh, Kay!. From among these, Girl Crazy became the first ever musical to win a Pulitzer Prize apart from spurning the hits I Got Rhythm and Of Thee I Sing.

The same year he made music for a musical, he also composed his first classical piece - Rhapsody In Blue. The piece was, orchestrated by Ferde Grofe, played by Paul Whiteman's band. He tried a hand at learning something from greats like Nadia Boulanger and Maurice Ravel, but Ravel rejected the proposition to teach him saying that bring his technique mainstream would ruin his jazz specialty.
His stay there inspired the piece An American In Paris. The piece didn't do well at the press and with critics when he played for the first time on the 13th of April in Carnegie Hall. But it, like some of his other early hits, became many jazz band's standard repertoires.

After getting fed up with the music scene in Paris, he decided to return home to the United States. His best was yet to come. Two years before his death in 1937, he composed his most appreciated work yet. Porgy and Bess premiered on Broadway in 1935.
In 1937, Gershwin began complaining of being able to smell burnt rubber and of headaches. He was diagnosed with a condition of a brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme. Despite the condition, he continued to work. He played with the San Francisco Philharmonic Orchestra in the same year.

This was his last performance before he collapsed and died and dies while working on the score of The Goldwyn Follies.

Two months after his death, the score of They Can't Take That Away From Me, from the film Shall We Dance won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

GEORGE GERSHWIN: An American Original

"George Gershwin 1937" by Carl Van Vechten Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Composer George Gershwin is among the best-known composers. His style was uniquely American: Big, boisterous, and an energetic fusion of old and new. He typified the “melting pot” that was the America of his day.

Born Jacob Gershovitz in 1898 to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, the boy who later became George Gershwin was no Mozart-like child prodigy. He was inspired to begin music lessons after attending the violin recital of a young friend of his – at the ripe old age of 10.

So much for the idea that you can’t amount to much, musically, unless you start piano before your feet can reach the pedals.

George’s parents had bought a piano for his older brother Ira, and at his request, allowed the younger boy to begin lessons. Five years later, George Gershwin was ready to quit school and begin playing piano professionally.

Command performances for the royalty of Europe? Um, no. Again, in contrast to Mozart, Gershwin began his professional career as a lowly “song plugger” – a pianist hired by a music company to demonstrate the latest songs available on sheet music. In this way, perhaps, he developed an ear for popular music that would serve him well later.

In 1916, when he was just 17 years old, Gershwin published his first song for the princely fee of $5. Also in 1916, Gershwin began work for the Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls in New York City, making recordings, arranging, and composing under his own and assumed names.

By 1920, Gershwin had begun to see commercial success for his compositions. In 1924, he collaborated with older brother Ira on a musical called Lady Be Good, the first of many productive collaborations between the two brothers. George handled the musical composition, while Ira wrote the dialogue and lyrics (the “book”).

Also in 1924, George Gershwin wrote what is perhaps his most famous major piano work, the Rhapsody in Blue. It is an American composition: A 15-minute concerto for piano and full orchestra – containing clear elements of jazz, popular, and folk music are woven into the very fabric of the piece. Gershwin himself thought of it as “a kaleidoscope of America.”

Gershwin wrote this amazing piece in only 5 weeks, and only reluctantly at that. His friend, bandleader Paul Whiteman, had requested a concerto-like jazz piano piece for a concert he wanted to put on called An Experiment in Modern Music. The concert was held on February 12, 1924.

Initially, Gershwin refused, thinking that he couldn’t produce such a major work in the short amount of time allotted. But after seeing a report in the newspaper that quoted Whiteman as saying, “George Gershwin is at work on a jazz concerto,” he felt he had to deliver. And deliver he did.

1924 was a busy year for young George. This was also the year in which he traveled to Paris, seeking to study under master composers of the day. Maurice Ravel, an admirer, famously refused to take him on as a student, fearing it would ruin the jazz influence that made Gershwin so unique. While in Paris, Gershwin wrote another piece that has proved enduringly popular, the symphonic work An American In Paris.

In 1935, Gershwin produced his most ambitious work, which he called a “folk opera,” Porgy and Bess. This was based on the novel Porgy, by DuBose Heyward. Heyward, with his wife, had previously adapted the novel to play form and collaborated with Ira Gershwin to adapt the play to the operatic form.

In 1937, Gershwin, then only 38 years old, began to experience blinding headaches. Later in the year, he was diagnosed as having brain cancer, although the diagnosis of the exact kind of cancer since been questioned. Following surgery for his tumor, George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937.

Here Gershwin finally comes to resemble Mozart. Not a child prodigy, not a performer for royalty. Yet still a prolific composer of wildly popular music — and Gershwin, like Mozart, died too young.

This article is written by Yoke Wong -  Article Directory: Article Dashboard

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Life & Music of GEORGE GERSHWIN

Even though George Gershwin's life was sadly cut short by a brain tumor when he was only 38 years old, his music still lives on in the hearts and minds of the world today. Some of his most famous works included "Rhapsody in Blue" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." His storied career includes many other notable highlights and achievements over the course of his brief life.

George Gershwin
Photo  by cliff1066™ 
George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants on September 26, 1898. He was named Jacob Gershowitz at birth. The family name was later Americanized by George to facilitate his show business career. Many of his other family members followed suit and changed their names accordingly. Gershwin had three siblings in his family.

George Gershwin revealed his talent for music at an early age. At the tender age of 10, Gershwin attended his friend Max Rosen's violin recital. He was absolutely fascinated by the passion behind the performance. He loved the sound of the instrument and the skilled nuance with which Rosen performed.

The Gershwin parents had bought a piano for George's older brother, Ira. George came home from the violin recital and was determined to learn to play an instrument, so he began tinkering around with Ira's piano at home. He learned the instrument quickly, so his parents were happy to help him find a suitable professional for a piano teacher.

The search for a piano teacher for young George Gershwin took nearly two years. He finally settled on Charles Hambitzer, who influenced Gershwin's musical life immensely. He taught Gershwin formal techniques and formal European music. Gershwin would attend classical music performances with Hambitzer, and he was often able to reproduce the melodies on the piano when he would return home. Hambitzer acted as Gershwin's mentor until the time of his death in 1918.

At 15, Gershwin dropped out of school to become a song plugger for Jerome H. Remick and Company, a firm from New York City's famed Tin Pan Alley. The position earned him $15 a week, but more importantly, it positioned him well in the music industry.

By 1916, Gershwin published his first song, entitled, "When You Want 'Em, You Can't Get 'Em, When You've Got 'Em, You Don't Want Em." He was 17 years old.

He followed up his release in 1916 with a 1917 release of "Rialto Ripples," which was a commercial success. In 1918, he released "Swanee." In 1924, Gershwin began his foray into musicals, a pursuit that would make him forever famous. He penned "Lady Be Good" and "Fascinating Rhythm" that year.

Follow-up musicals in subsequent years included "Oh Kay," "Funny Face," "Strike Up the Band," "Show Girl," "Girl Crazy," "I Got Rhythm," "Porgy and Bess" and "Of Thee I Sing." The latter of the group won the esteemed Pulitzer Prize.

Gershwin's success on Broadway eventually led to calls from Hollywood movie studios. He moved out to California to do some film work. While out in Hollywood, he began complaining of headaches in early 1937. Sadly, during his work on a film entitled "The Goldwyn Follies," George Gershwin collapsed due to a malignant brain tumor. He later died following a surgery to remove the tumor on July 11, 1937.

Although his life was tragically cut short, George Gershwin's legacy will always live on through his music. From timeless hits to musicals, his melodies still resonate in popular culture. His influence will be felt for decades to come.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Famous MODERN COMPOSERS - Orchestral Music Has Flourished in the Modern Era

Bartók's signature on his high school graduati...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Despite the increasing appeal of popular music, orchestral music has flourished in the modern era, often looking to alternative influences and stylisms. Here are some of the most famous modern composers.

Bela Bartok (1881-1945) drew on his Hungarian folk roots to revolutionise opera, chamber music and ballet. Regarded as a great thinker as well as a musician, his influence will remain for years to come.
Philip Glass (1937- ) started out as a minimalist with works such as 'Strung Out' but later expanded his oeuvre into symphony with operas like Satyagraha, based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Glass is active in the Free Tibet cause.

Noted for his great leaps forward in total serialism, Pierre Boulez (1925- ) is one of France's most famous modern composers. Although he hasn't composed much in recent years, his greatest work is considered to be 'Pli Selon Pli', based on the verse of the poet Mallarmé.

Most famous for his opera 'Peter Grimes', Benjamin Britten (1913-76) was the leading light of Britain's classical music scene in the twentieth century. He was above all a deeply moral artist, expressing an enmity towards violence with his acclaimed 'War Requiem'.
English: Igor Stravinsky playing the Capriccio...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The most important exponent of the postmodern movement, Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007), simultaneously delighted and outraged the public with operas such as 'Light' in which the members of a string quartet were suspended by helicopters above the venue they were performing at. The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham was once famously asked if he had ever conducted any Stockhausen. He replied that he hadn't, but he might well have trodden in some.

Another of the world's most famous composers was Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) who turned his back on Romanticism in favour of a more avant-garde, irregular style epitomised by the ballet 'Firebird'. He then reworked a number of classic compositions in a modernist, experimental manner. He is roday regarded as highly influential on French and American classical music.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) embraced the broadening media-music sphere to become a TV star, a great pianist and a conductor as well as arguably the finest American classical artist of his time. As well as writing ballets and operas he turned his hand to popular musicals, creating such hits as 'West Side Story'.
English: George Gershwin
George Gershwin
(Photo credit: 
Like Bernstein, George Gershwin (1888-1937) also expanded his horizons by composing Broadway musicals such as 'Oh Kay', 'Strike Up the Band' and 'Girl Crazy'. He also absorbed the influence of the jazz that was popular in his time to write the iconic 'Rhapsody in Blue'. Gershwin's last notable composition was 'Porgy and bess' which incorporated the music and experience of African-Americans in a wholly unprecedented way. Along with the others in the list, Gershwin can truly be one of the greatest and most famous modern composers to have blessed the world.

    Wendy Pan is an accomplished niche website developer and author. To learn more about famous modern composers, please visit Classical Musics Greatest Composers Site [] for current articles and discussions.
    Article Source: EzineArticles

Monday, February 27, 2017

GERSHWIN, Ravel, Grofe - How Blue Can You Get?

George Gershwin was a songwriter of popular music, a talented pianist and entertainer and wished to be a great classical composer. He had some success in that field with his folk opera Porgy and Bess, Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F.

English: Birthday party honoring Maurice Ravel...
Birthday party honoring Maurice Ravel, New York City, March 8, 1928. From left: Oscar Fried, conductor; Eva Gauthier, singer; Ravel at piano; Manoah Leide-Tedesco, composer-conductor; and composer George Gershwin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
He was something of a playboy and didn't always tend to his assigned tasks. He didn't finish Rhapsody in Blue till the day before it was to be premiered and there was no time to write out all the sheet music the orchestra needed. This was the job of Ferde Grofé, later to become well known for his Grand Canyon Suite. Grofé knew he would never be able to finish the copying chores so he gathered the orchestra together and asked them if they knew the names of all the chords in music. 

Of course they did. So instead of writing everything out, he simply wrote the names of the chords over the notes of the melody. Everybody understood and went right into rehearsal and the premiere went off beautifully. That was the start of using chord symbols such as A, Bminor, etc. A set of symbols was soon developed and standardized and now musicians frequently use what are called fake-books which have only melodies and chord symbols.

Gershwin spent a lot of time in France along with writers and painters of the time. He met the great composer Maurice Ravel, best know for his Bolero. Gershwin asked Ravel if he could study music with Ravel the master. Ravel said no. Gershwin asked why. Ravel said that Gershwin was a first-rate Gershwin; there was no point in him becoming a second-rate Ravel.

That's a satisfying story, but it makes me wonder who Ravel would accept as a student; only someone who was not creative and unique? That would make all of his students preordained to be imitation Ravels. I wonder if Ravel was really just ducking the matter because he was afraid he would have a student on his hands he couldn't manage.

Gershwin did just fine on his own, with a little help from his brother Ira who wrote the lyrics to most of George's songs.