George Gershwin


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A celebration of the life and works of one of the most prolific people of the "Roaring Twenties"; George Gershwin.

Links to audio:
1. Rhapsody in Blue --
2. An American in Paris --
3. Swanee --

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George Gershwin

  1. 1. George Gershwin: A Life and Times Created by MaryEllen Saatzer Period 2 FIRE
  2. 2. Stomping Grounds <ul><li>Born: Brooklyn, New York on September 26, 1898 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>born as Jacob </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Lived in New York City’s lower east side </li></ul><ul><ul><li>poorer side of town </li></ul></ul>the house where George grew up
  3. 3. Family and Relations <ul><li>Mother: Rose Bruskin </li></ul><ul><li>Father: Morris Gershovitz </li></ul><ul><ul><li>changed the surname from Gershovitz to Gershwin to make it “sound more American” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(Older) Brother: Ira </li></ul><ul><ul><li>born as Israel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>born in New York City on December 6, 1896 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Had two other siblings </li></ul>
  4. 4. Family and Relations the Gershwin family
  5. 5. Adolescence <ul><li>Began studying piano at age 12 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>piano teacher: Charles Hambitzer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>theory teacher: Edward Kilenyi </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Quit high school when he was 16 to become a “song-plugger” at Remick’s (music publisher/distributor) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>mother was worried; “no college education, no success” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Missed a “brilliant child violinist’s” concert </li></ul><ul><ul><li>could hear the music from a distance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>very inspirational </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>spent most of his time at a keyboard after the experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>parents signed him up for piano lessons </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Charles Hambitzer </li></ul><ul><li>Edward Kilenyi </li></ul><ul><li>Very generous </li></ul><ul><li>Fond of George and his talent </li></ul><ul><li>Taught George proper techniques </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>George began writing songs with styles similar to that of Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Referred George to Edward Kilenyi </li></ul>George’s Teachers <ul><li>Published a book that contained lessons he had with George </li></ul><ul><li>Taught George theory </li></ul>
  7. 7. Remick’s <ul><li>George would take his ideas and “plug” them into the music </li></ul><ul><ul><li>helped sell more music </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>jotted down ideas in a notebook </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>how he met Fred Astaire </li></ul></ul><ul><li>George quit after three years because he preferred music written for Broadway musicals </li></ul>Fred Astaire, dancer
  8. 8. Life after Remick’s <ul><li>George became rehearsal pianist for “Miss 1917” (a musical) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>well-liked </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>offered a job as an accompanist </li></ul></ul><ul><li>George was then offered to audition for Max Dreyfus (very well-known music publisher) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>got the job, but wanted to write his own musicals </li></ul></ul>Remick’s storefront
  9. 9. Aarons/Gershwin Partnership <ul><li>1919 - Alex Aarons asked George to compose score for “La, La, Lucille” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>huge success </li></ul></ul><ul><li>George worked with Alex until 1933 </li></ul>
  10. 10. Al Jolson and “Swanee” <ul><li>October 24, 1919 - “Swanee” played on Broadway for first time </li></ul><ul><ul><li>audience didn’t listen </li></ul></ul><ul><li>George went to Al Jolson’s party, played an improvised version of it </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Jolson really impressed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>made a recording of it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>George made $10,000 in royalties off it </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. George White and Kilenyi <ul><li>George wanted to compose more “serious music” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>went back to Edward Kilenyi for lessons </li></ul></ul><ul><li>1920 – George White (dancer) asked George to write the score for “Scandals of 1920” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Scandals of 1920” had 318 performances </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>George (Gershwin) also wrote score for “Scandals of 1922”, which led to the fusion of jazz, opera, and Broadway </li></ul></ul>George White tap-dancing
  12. 12. Paul Whiteman <ul><li>Paul Whiteman was a violinist and band leader, referred to as the “King of Jazz” </li></ul><ul><li>George and Paul worked on “Blue Monday” together </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Blue Monday” was composed in only 5 days, failed miserably </li></ul></ul><ul><li>They started working jazz into orchestral pieces </li></ul>
  13. 13. Back to America! <ul><li>After arriving in America, George was asked to play for Eva Gauthier (Canadian soprano) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>was one of the first times jazz was included in a formal concert </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>audience was impressed (so was Paul Whiteman) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Whiteman asked George to compose a piece for piano and orchestra </li></ul><ul><ul><li>led to “Rhapsody in Blue” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Also worked on “Lady Be Good” with Ira </li></ul><ul><ul><li>first collaboration of the two brothers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Lady Be Good” was written for Fred Astaire </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. “ Rhapsody in Blue” <ul><li>Set George’s career </li></ul><ul><li>Took only 10 days to compose </li></ul><ul><li>George described it as “a musical kaleidoscope of America” </li></ul><ul><li>Earned George $250,000 in it’s first 10 years </li></ul>This is a beautiful recording of George playing “Rhapsody in Blue” (on piano). It’s pretty long, so you don’t have to listen to the entire thing, but I highly recommend it.  The recording takes 10-15 seconds to start.
  15. 15. Back to London… <ul><li>July 1924 – George went back to London for “Primrose” (another musical) </li></ul><ul><li>Befriended the Prince of Wales and Lord Louis Mountbatten </li></ul>Lord Louis Mountbatten
  16. 16. 1925 - 1927 <ul><li>1925 – George writes a piano concert for the New York Symphony Orchestra </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>audiences loved it, but critics thought George should stick with jazz </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>1926 – George writes “Oh, Kay!” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>so popular during its first 3 months that it sold 57230 copies of sheet music </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>1927 – “Funny Face” and “Strike Up the Band” both fail miserably </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Funny Face” was a hit after being reworked, starred Fred Astaire </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Strike Up the Band” closed after it’s first 2 weeks </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 17. 1928 <ul><li>George met Maurice Ravel for lessons, but was denied (Ravel did not want to spoil George’s natural talent) </li></ul><ul><li>March – George left NY for Europe because he still wanted to compose “serious” music and find a teacher </li></ul><ul><ul><li>had no success with either due to all the parties/concerts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Alban Berg (Austrian composer) and Sergei Prokofiev wanted to meet George </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. “ An American in Paris” <ul><li>George began writing it after his failed search for a teacher </li></ul><ul><li>Written to show the feelings of a tourist </li></ul><ul><li>Street noises in the musical seemed strange to the audience </li></ul><ul><ul><li>they loved it anyway </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Critics still thought that George’s concert music “lacked discipline and structure” </li></ul></ul>This is a recording of “An American in Paris”, played by the New York Philharmonic. It’s almost ten minutes long, but totally worth it.  Remember to listen for the “car horns”.
  19. 19. Rosamund Walling <ul><li>George wrote letters to her, which led people to believe that he wanted to marry her </li></ul><ul><li>People were also thinking George was becoming arrogant </li></ul>George’s signature
  20. 20. 1930 <ul><li>George and Ira were paid $100,000 to produce the music for “Delicious” (movie) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>George recycled some of the songs for “Second Rhapsody” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Second Rhapsody” lacked inspiration of first version, but did show what George had learned about composing </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>1931 </li></ul><ul><li>1932 </li></ul><ul><li>“ Of Thee I Sing” runs 441 performances </li></ul><ul><li>George worries that he will never be taken seriously </li></ul><ul><ul><li>wanted to make his musical mark in history </li></ul></ul><ul><li>George decides to look for a teacher (again) </li></ul><ul><li>Bill Daly (theater director): “a rather worried and anxious young man” (speaking of George) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Of Thee I Sing” wins the Pulitzer Prize </li></ul>1931 - 1932
  22. 22. George’s “Most Exciting Night” <ul><li>August 16, 1932 – open-air concert at Lewisohn Stadium </li></ul><ul><ul><li>18,000 people in attendance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>George described it as “the most exciting night I have ever had” </li></ul></ul>Lewisohn Stadium
  23. 23. The 1933 Failures <ul><li>“ Pardon My English” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>failed because of the Great Depression </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Destroyed the career of Alex Aarons </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Let ‘Em Eat Cake” </li></ul>
  24. 24. 1934 <ul><li>George decided to start “Porgy and Bess” because he read “Porgy” (story) eight years earlier </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>enjoyed writing it </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>traveled to Charleston for its first performance (October 10, 1935) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>critics thought it was “clumsy” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>only had 124 performances </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>lost lots of George’s money which made him heartbroken </li></ul></ul></ul>
  25. 25. 1936 and Paulette Goddard <ul><li>August 10, 1936 – George and Ira moved to Hollywood </li></ul><ul><ul><li>wrote “Shall We Dance”, “A Damsel in Distress”, and “The Goldwyn Follies” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fell in love with Paulette Goddard (wife of Charlie Chaplin) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>she refused to leave her husband </li></ul></ul>Paulette Goddard
  26. 26. 1937 and the Tragedy it Brought <ul><li>February 1937 – while playing at a concert, George blacked out </li></ul><ul><ul><li>also had dizzy spells/headaches, and was quick-tempered </li></ul></ul><ul><li>July 9, 1937 – George fell into a coma, doctors figured out that he had a brain tumor </li></ul><ul><ul><li>special operation (5 hours) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>July 11 – George died of the brain tumor </li></ul>George’s gravesite
  27. 27. In Memoriam <ul><li>George Gershwin </li></ul><ul><li>1898 - 1937 </li></ul>“ Swanee” (two minutes)