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Born in 1898
Inducted in 1998
Gershwin was not the first composer to use jazz in concert music but he was not a “classical” musician dabbling in a colorful popular idiom, but a musician thoroughly at home in that idiom, who transferred it successfully, and with unimaginable impact, not only into the concert hall but into the consciousness of virtually every serious composer in the world. For the last dozen years of his life he was recognized as the pre-eminent American composer, both at home and abroad. Gershwin made his first piano rolls in 1915, and began composing songs of his own. Two years later he was working as a rehearsal pianist for the Broadway show Miss 1917, with music by Jerome Kern and Victor Herbert, and that year he began studying harmony, counterpoint and orchestration with Edward Kilanyi, for whom he wrote his first “classical” piece, the Lullaby for string quartet, as a harmony exercise in 1919. In the same year Gershwin composed his first full score for Broadway, La, La, Lucille, which had a run of 104 performances. He then wrote the music for several other successful shows and revues, including the annual George White’s Scandals from 1920 through 1924, and in the latter year his brother Ira became his librettist for the first time, in Lady, Be Good, initiating a collaboration a matching of words to music unparalleled since the heyday of Gilbert and Sullivan. Also in 1924 came the event that made Gershwin, literally overnight, a celebrity in the “classical” world: the historic Lincoln’s Birthday concert by Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, billed as “An Experiment in Modern Music,” in which Whiteman mixed jazz with classical music in a formal concert setting. Gershwin, after the enormous success of the Rhapsody and the Concerto (which he orchestrated himself), sought further instruction from various renowned musicians. In 1935, by which time he had composed An American in Paris, the Second Rhapsody and the Cuban Overture and added several more Broadway shows to his string of successes Gershwin introduced his “American folk opera”, “Porgy and Bess”, which he and Ira, in collaboration with Du Bose Heyward, had based on Heyward’s novel and subsequent play Porgy, is without question the most successful opera yet composed by an American. Following the premiere of Porgy and Bess Gershwin toured as pianist and conductor in concert programs of his music, and was based in Hollywood, where he and Ira created songs for films; he died there of a brain tumor in his 39th year, having influenced the course of music in our century far beyond anything he might have imagined.
Movement: Opening section
Performer: Orchestra of St. Luke's, Robert Sadin (conductor)
Courtesy Of: Sony Classical