George Gershwin

George Gershwin

His Life and Work

Book - 2006
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This comprehensive biography of George Gershwin (1898-1937) unravels the myths surrounding one of America's most celebrated composers and establishes the enduring value of his music. Gershwin created some of the most beloved music of the twentieth century and, along with Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter, helped make the golden age of Broadway golden. Howard Pollack draws from a wealth of sketches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, books, articles, recordings, films, and other materials--including a large cache of Gershwin scores discovered in a Warner Brothers warehouse in 1982--to create an expansive chronicle of Gershwin's meteoric rise to fame. He also traces Gershwin's powerful presence that, even today, extends from Broadway, jazz clubs, and film scores to symphony halls and opera houses.

Pollack's lively narrative describes Gershwin's family, childhood, and education; his early career as a pianist; his friendships and romantic life; his relation to various musical trends; his writings on music; his working methods; and his tragic death at the age of 38. Unlike Kern, Berlin, and Porter, who mostly worked within the confines of Broadway and Hollywood, Gershwin actively sought to cross the boundaries between high and low, and wrote works that crossed over into a realm where art music, jazz, and Broadway met and merged. The author surveys Gershwin's entire oeuvre, from his first surviving compositions to the melodies that his brother and principal collaborator, Ira Gershwin, lyricized after his death. Pollack concludes with an exploration of the performances and critical reception of Gershwin's music over the years, from his time to ours.
Publisher: Berkeley : University of California Press, c2006
ISBN: 9780520248649
0520248643
Branch Call Number: 780.92 G323p 2006
Characteristics: xvii, 884 p., [32] p. of plates : ill., music ; 24 cm

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pkirk
Nov 01, 2009

I have long been a fan of Gershwin. Indeed I've played his Rhapsody in Blue more than a few times and have heard it and other serious music of his on several occasions. But I knew little about his life except his untimely death.

Here is the story of a musician so talented that every top composer he approached for lessons refused him. Maurice Ravel declined George's request to study with him. Nadia Boulanger, the great composition teacher through whose atelier passed almost every notable musician of the last century, turned him down. George never stopped studying and learning.

A 2-part book that looks not only at his brief life but also examines his work is designed for anyone who has an interest in music and the musical theatre as it was in the first third of the last century.

Well written, accompanied by copious notes, the book has one flaw and that is the author's frequent use of the phrase "as mentioned earlier" whenever a personality, event or activity is referred to later in the book, To me, this was a bit disconcerting in an otherwise well-written book.

Pollack brings to life the times in which Gershwin worked from his early days as a song plugger in Tin Pan Alley to his Broadway triumphs and his early and terribly short foray into the concert hall. Leaving us with the unanswerable question "What if?" It is populated with notable figures from Al Jolson, Oscar Levant, a close associate of George, Irving Berlin and Fred Astaire among others.

The author gives us a rather detailed but not technical review of Geshwin's work. In other words you don't have to be a musicologist to understand this part of the book.

I believe it is a great read for anyone who enjoys music, anyone who has an interest in the history of musical theatre and anyone who has an interest in history in general.

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