George Gershwin: His Life and Work / Edition 1

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Overview


This comprehensive biography of George Gershwin (1898-1937) unravels the myths surrounding one of America's most celebrated composers and establishes the enduring value of his music. Gershwin created some of the most beloved music of the twentieth century and, along with Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter, helped make the golden age of Broadway golden. Howard Pollack draws from a wealth of sketches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, books, articles, recordings, films, and other materials—including a large cache of Gershwin scores discovered in a Warner Brothers warehouse in 1982—to create an expansive chronicle of Gershwin’s meteoric rise to fame. He also traces Gershwin’s powerful presence that, even today, extends from Broadway, jazz clubs, and film scores to symphony halls and opera houses.

Pollack’s lively narrative describes Gershwin’s family, childhood, and education; his early career as a pianist; his friendships and romantic life; his relation to various musical trends; his writings on music; his working methods; and his tragic death at the age of 38. Unlike Kern, Berlin, and Porter, who mostly worked within the confines of Broadway and Hollywood, Gershwin actively sought to cross the boundaries between high and low, and wrote works that crossed over into a realm where art music, jazz, and Broadway met and merged. The author surveys Gershwin’s entire oeuvre, from his first surviving compositions to the melodies that his brother and principal collaborator, Ira Gershwin, lyricized after his death. Pollack concludes with an exploration of the performances and critical reception of Gershwin's music over the years, from his time to ours.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Pollack presents a fresh stance on the legendary composer in a monumental biography. . . . A fascinating narrative of Gershwin's life."—Opera Journal
Opera Journal - Stephanie Poxon

“Pollack presents a fresh stance on the legendary composer in a monumental biography. . . . A fascinating narrative of Gershwin’s life.”
Peter Keepnews
This is surely the closest reading Gershwin’s music has ever received. “Rhapsody in Blue” and the other concert pieces get scrupulous attention, of course, generally admiring if not entirely uncritical. So does “Porgy and Bess,” Gershwin’s only full-length opera, which Pollack examines in four tour-de-force chapters from every conceivable angle, racial and social as well as musical, beginning with the work’s genesis and ending with a brief but intelligent survey of the many jazz and pop versions of its score. But unlike previous biographers, he takes a microscopic look at everything Gershwin wrote, or at least everything that survives.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
University of Houston music professor Pollack (Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man) offers a look at Gershwin so exhaustive and comprehensive that it stands as a definitive statement. Bibliographic notes filling 100 pages indicate the extent of this in-depth re-examination. Scholarly yet entertaining, Pollack's survey is not chronological; it's divided into two book-length sections. In part one, a study of popular music trends serves as an overture to Gershwin's musical influences, his childhood and Tin Pan Alley years, followed by a look at Gershwin as a pianist and conductor through his death from a brain tumor at the age of 38. The book's second half, titled "Work,'' is an ambitious attempt to document Gershwin's entire output, from orchestral works to theater, radio and films, including the role of lyricist Ira Gershwin in reworking his brother's tunes, as he did for Billy Wilder's 1964 film Kiss Me, Stupid. The creation of Porgy and Bess and subsequent revivals, films, concerts, recordings and jazz interpretations (notably by Miles Davis) fill several chapters with fascinating details. Gershwin's innovative synthesis of classical, blues and jazz into a "glorious body of work" is illuminated by Pollack's insightful analysis. 51 b&w photos. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Pollack (music, Univ. of Houston; Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man) here turns his attention to another American composer, George Gershwin (1898-1937). While he lacks the firsthand knowledge of which many previous biographers boasted, e.g., David Ewen in A Journey to Greatness: The Life and Music of George Gershwin (1956), Pollack has the advantage of perspective and new materials discovered in a warehouse in 1982. The book is organized into two broad sections: "Life" presents a balanced treatment of important events and people, including Gershwin's mother; "Work" tackles the whole of Gershwin's oeuvre, beginning with "Ragging the Traumerei" in 1913 and ending with the music he wrote for The Goldwyn Follies shortly before he died in 1937. Pollack treats Gershwin as primarily a composer for the theater and therefore focuses on the many forms theater music may assume. There are synopses of the stories for each of Gershwin's shows, many of which cannot be found elsewhere. The depth of detail and research into Gershwin's works (more than 100 pages of endnotes) makes this an essential purchase for all libraries and one of the best books available on Gershwin. Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520248649
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2007
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 901
  • Sales rank: 817,655
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 2.25 (d)

Meet the Author


Howard Pollack is John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Music at the University of Houston. Among his books are Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man and John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer.
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Table of Contents


Contents
Preface

PART I. LIFE
1. Gershwin and His Family
2. Gershwin’s Musical Education to the Rhapsody in Blue (1924)
3. Gershwin and the New Popular Music
4. The Popular Pianist
5. Toward a Career in the Theater
6. Gershwin among His Friends
7. Later Studies
8. Gershwin and the Great Tradition
9. Gershwin and Popular Music and Jazz after 1920
10. Working Methods
11. Gershwin the Man

PART II. WORK
12. From “Ragging the Traumerei” (ca. 1913) to The Capitol Revue (1919)
13. From Morris Gest’s Midnight Whirl (1919) to The Perfect Fool (1921)
14. From The French Doll to Our Nell (1922)
15. From The Sunshine Trail to Sweet Little Devil (1923)
16. The Rhapsody in Blue (1924)
17. The Scandals of 1924, Primrose, and Lady, Be Good! (1924)
18. Short Story, Tell Me More, and the Concerto in F (1925)
19. Tip-Toes and Song of the Flame (1925)
20. Oh, Kay! and Other Works (1926)
21. Strike Up the Band and Funny Face (1927)
22. Rosalie and Treasure Girl (1928)
23. An American in Paris (1928) and East Is West (1929)
24. Show Girl and The Dybbuk (1929)
25. Girl Crazy (1930)
26. Delicious and the Second Rhapsody (1931)
27. Of Thee I Sing (1931)
28. George Gershwin’s Song-Book (1932)
29. The Cuban Overture (1932) and Pardon My English (1933)
30. Let ’Em Eat Cake (1933) and Variations on “I Got Rhythm” (1934)
31. Porgy and Bess (1935)
32. The First Production of Porgy and Bess
33. Porgy and Bess in Revival
34. Porgy and Bess on Disc, Film, and the Concert Stage
35. From Swing Is King (1936) to A Damsel in Distress (1937)
36. From The Goldwyn Follies (1938) to Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)

Conclusion
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

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