Work: Porgy and Bess: Summertime
About This Work
Summertime is one of the most popular numbers from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, what the composer called a folk opera and what many consider his finest achievement. He was inspired to compose the work after reading Edwin Dubose Heyward's novel
Porgy in 1926. It was not until 1934, however, that Gershwin, his librettist brother Ira, and Heyward collaborated on the effort. Heyward fashioned the libretto and worked with Ira on the lyrics to the songs, though Heyward alone is credited with having written them for Summertime. Sung by the character Clara, this lullaby is presented shortly after the brief overture that opens the opera and is the first vocal number heard. Its theme is absolutely striking in the way it conveys a lazy, blues-imbued serenity. The mood of the song emerges from thick, mesmerizing mists in its brighter second subject, which begins with the words "So, hush little baby...." Some will hear a sensual undercurrent in Summertime, and others will be enchanted simply by the catchy, slow lilt and atmospheric harmonies. Gershwin's highly evocative writing brilliantly mixes elements of jazz and the song styles of blacks in the southeast United States from the early twentieth century. Gershwin, of course, adds his own unique voice to the music and the results are utterly charming. Without doubt, this is one of the finest songs the composer ever wrote.
-- Robert Cummings, All Music Guide
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