Happy Birthday George Gershwin

On September 26, 1898 in Brooklyn, NY was born one of the greatest American composers [maybe the most popular and beloved], the virtuoso pianist, George Gershwin [born Jacob Gershovitz].

George Gershwin [1898 – 1937]

This son of Jewish immigrants, teamed with his brother Ira Gershwin, to produce some of the greatest broadway musical tunes ever. Gershwin also composed solo piano and orchestral classical music in which he incorporated a jazz style that he loved and learned when growing up in New York.

From George Gershwin-Biography:Britannica: “He began his musical education at age 11, when his family bought a second-hand upright piano, ostensibly so that George’s older sibling, Ira, could learn the instrument. When George surprised everyone with his fluid playing of a popular song, which he had taught himself by following the keys on a neighbor’s player piano, his parents decided that George would be the family member to receive lessons. He studied piano with the noted instructor Charles Hambitzer, who introduced his young student to the works of the great classical composers. Hambitzer was so impressed with Gershwin’s potential that he refused payment for the lessons; as he wrote in a letter to his sister, ‘I have a new pupil who will make his mark if anybody will. The boy is a genius.‘”

These early experiences greatly increased Gershwin’s knowledge of jazz and popular music. He enjoyed especially the songs of Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern—referring to Berlin as “America’s Franz Schubert” and stating that Kern was “the first composer who made me conscious that most popular music was of inferior quality, and that musical comedy was made of better material”—and he was inspired by their work to compose for the Broadway stage.

To this end, in late 1923 Whiteman asked Gershwin to compose a piece for an upcoming concert—entitled “An Experiment in Modern Music”—at New York’s Aeolian Concert Hall. Legend has it that Gershwin forgot about the request until early January 1924, when he read a newspaper article announcing that the Whiteman concert on February 12 would feature a major new Gershwin composition. Writing at a furious pace in order to meet the deadline, Gershwin composed Rhapsody in Blue, perhaps his best-known work, in three weeks’ time.

George Gershwin sadly died of a brain tumor at the young age of 38 in Hollywood, California.

Please read my previous post, of a book recommendation, that has some great information on George Gershwin : Book Recommendation: Rhapsody by Mitchell James Kaplan.

This is a wonderful video of Israeli pianist and musicologist, Astrith Baltsan talking about George Gershwin [in Hebrew-with English subtitles] with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra:

Please turn up the volume to enjoy some wonderful music by the great American iconic composer, George Gershwin.

I Got Rhythm:


An American In Paris:

Rhapsody in Blue:


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