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A Natural Performer

Donald Macleod describes how Gershwin drew in the crowds on Broadway and in the concert hall. Including Swanee, Oh Lady Be Good, Lullaby, Rhapsody in Blue and Fascinating Rhythm.

This week Donald Macleod explores the colourful life and music of George Gershwin. Today Gershwin brings in the crowds on Broadway and in the concert hall.

A life cut short, George Gershwin died in 1937 of a brain tumour at the age of just 38. Yet this isn't a story of what might have been. Gershwin's musical legacy stands as one of admirable achievement. He wrote a string of twelve Broadway musicals, orchestral music and an opera. He penned some of the most recorded tunes in the popular song catalogue of all time. We'll hear many of them across the week, in classic versions made by some of the twentieth century's legendary voices, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Outside the sphere of popular music, Gershwin's orchestral music won plenty of public support although his critical reception was mixed. Nonetheless among his supporters were significant figures in the classical world such as the New York Philharmonic's Walter Damrosch.
Despite the breadth of his appeal, his professional standing and his wealth, Gershwin remained a man who never felt truly confident in his own musical knowledge, perhaps because his musical education had been limited by circumstance. He was born in 1898 in New York, the second son of Jewish immigrant parents, Morris and Rose Gershowitz. As a child George excelled on roller-skates rather than school-work. Leaving altogether at the age of 14 he was pounding away on a piano in Tin Pan Alley for 10 hours a day. Success came early though when he persuaded Al Jolson to record his song "Swanee". The two million records it sold made George a comfortable pile, and from there on, as they say, "the rest is history".

As a song plugger on Tin Pan Alley Gershwin was introduced to Fred and his sister Adele, going on a few years later to produce a Broadway musical for them, "Lady Be Good" and establishing himself as concert pianist, taking five curtain calls at the premiere of his jazz concerto "Rhapsody in Blue".

That Certain Feeling
George Gershwin, piano

Swanee
Al Jolson

Oh Lady Be Good
Fred Astaire
The Oscar Peterson Trio

Lullaby
Brodsky Quartet

Rhapsody in Blue
George Gershwin, piano roll
Members of the Columbia Jazz Band
Michael Tilson-Thomas, conductor

Fascinating Rhythm (Lady be Good)
John Pizzarelli, Jeff White
Lara Teeter, Dick Trevor
Ann Morrison, Susie Trevor
Cast Ensemble,
Orchestra conducted by Eric Stern

I'd Rather Charleston (Lady Be Good)
Lara Teeter, Dick Trevor
Ann Morrison, Susie Trevor
Orchestra conducted by Eric Stern.

1 hour

Last on

Mon 30 May 2016 18:00

Music Played

  • George Gershwin

    That certain feeling

    • Warner Bros USN019328703.
    • Warner Bros.
    • 3.
  • George Gershwin

    Swanee

    Singer: Al Jolson. Orchestra: LISTEN WITH MOTHER - NOLA YORK, ALISON MCMORLAND, TONY AITKEN.
    • Pearl GEMM0113.
    • Pearl.
    • 1.
  • George Gershwin

    Oh, lady, be good!

    Singer: Fred Astaire. Ensemble: The Oscar Peterson Trio.
    • Universal Music Operations 095225330.
    • Universal Music Operations.
    • 16.
  • George Gershwin

    Lullaby

    Ensemble: Brodsky String Quartet.
    • Decca 478 3527.
    • Decca.
    • 10.
  • George Gershwin

    Rhapsody in blue

    Performer: Jean‐Yves Thibaudet. Orchestra: Baltimore S O. Conductor: Marin Alsop.
    • DECCA 478 2189.
    • Decca.
    • 1.
  • George Gershwin

    Fascinatin' rhythm

    Singer: John Pizzarelli. Singer: Lara Teeter. Singer: Ann Morrison. Orchestra: Orchestra. Conductor: Eric Stern.
    • ELEKTRA/NONESUCH : 7559-79308-2.
    • ELEKTRA/NONESUCH.
    • 6.
  • George Gershwin

    I'd rather Charleston

    Singer: Lara Teeter. Singer: Ann Morrison. Singer: Richard Trevor. Singer: Susie Trevor. Orchestra: LISTEN WITH MOTHER - NOLA YORK, ALISON MCMORLAND, TONY AITKEN. Conductor: Eric Stern.
    • ELEKTRA/NONESUCH : 7559-79308-2.
    • ELEKTRA/NONESUCH.
    • 13.

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