George Gershwin

Biography

Born: 1898   Died: 1937   Country: USA   Period: 20th Century
In a career tragically cut short in mid-stride by a brain tumor, George Gershwin (1898-1937) proved himself to be not only one of the great songwriters of his extremely rich era, but also a gifted "serious" composer who bridged the worlds of classical and popular music. The latter is all the more striking, given that, of his contemporaries, Gershwin was the most influenced by such styles as jazz and blues.

Gershwin's first
Read more major hit, interpolated into the show Sinbad in 1919, was "Swanee," sung by Al Jolson. Gershwin wrote both complete scores and songs for such variety shoes as George White's Scandals (whose annual editions thus were able to introduce such songs as "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" and "Somebody Loves Me").

After 1924, Gershwin worked primarily with his brother Ira as his lyricist. The two scored a series of Broadway hits in the '20s and early '30s, starting with Lady Be Good (1924), which included the song "Fascinatin' Rhythm." 1924 was also the year Gershwin composed his first classical piece, "Rhapsody in Blue," and he would continue to work in the classical field until his death.

By the '30s, the Gershwins had turned to political topics and satire in response to the onset of the Depression, and their Of Thee I Sing became the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize. In the mid '30s, Gershwin ambitiously worked to meld his show music and classical leanings in the creation of the folk opera Porgy and Bess, with lyrics by Ira and Dubose Heyward. The Gershwins had moved to Hollywood and were engaged in several movie projects at the time of George Gershwin's death. Read less
Ives: Symphony No 2; Carter: Instances; Gershwin: An American In Paris / Morlot
Release Date: 04/29/2014   Label: Seattle Symphony Orchestra  
Catalog: 1003   Number of Discs: 1
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Hummel, Gershwin, Elgar  /  Karen Geoghegan, Benjamin Wallfisch
Release Date: 06/24/2008   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 10477   Number of Discs: 1
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Gershwin / United States Army Concert Band
Release Date: 05/01/2008   Label: Altissimo  
Catalog: ALT07329   Number of Discs: 1
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The Legacy Of George Gershwin / United States Army Field Band
Release Date: 10/25/2011   Label: Altissimo  
Catalog: 63402   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Girl Crazy: I got rhythm

 

About This Work
According to Isaac Goldberg, Gershwin's first biographer, I Got Rhythm originated as a slow number in the Gershwins' 1928 flop, Treasure Girl, which closed on Broadway after 68 performances. And, as was the case with Embraceable You, it was to have Read more been included in Florenz Ziegfeld's East Is West, for which the Gershwins compiled a considerable score and which never made it to the boards. In the upshot, both numbers found a definitive place in the Aarons and Freedley production, Girl Crazy, which opened at the Alvin Theater on October 14, 1930, for a run of 272 performances. Embraceable You was taken, with stage veteran Allen Kearns, by the 19-year-old Ginger Rogers, while I Got Rhythm -- in its familiar jauntily upbeat version -- featured 23-year-old Ethel Merman making her Broadway debut.

Merman was Vinton Freedley's find. Having heard her singing between movies at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater, he immediately engaged her. She auditioned soon after for the Gershwins in Sam and Delilah and I Got Rhythm, and George, always obliging, offered to make changes to suit her. "They will do very nicely, Mr. Gershwin," she replied. And they did. Ira Gershwin recalled "her assurance, timing and delivery both as comedienne and singer -- with a no-nonsense voice that could reach not only the standees but the ticket takers in the lobby."

I'm chipper all the day,

Happy with my lot.

How do I get that way?

Look at what I've got:

I got rhythm,

I got music,

I got my man --

Who could ask for anything more?

Thus brilliantly launched, the tune continued to hold a fascination for George, who devoted one of his more elaborate transcriptions to it in George Gershwin's Song Book, published in 1932, and lovingly garlanded it with sublime invention in one of his finest instrumental works, the Variations on "I Got Rhythm," for piano and orchestra, in 1934.

-- Adrian Corleonis, All Music Guide Read less

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