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George Gershwin

His Life and Work

Howard Pollack (Author)

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ISBN: 9780520933149
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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.
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
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.
“Pollack presents a fresh stance on the legendary composer in a monumental biography. . . . A fascinating narrative of Gershwin’s life. . . . Pollack’s meticulous penchant for detail is evident throughout the biography, making it not only a definitive source for musicologists and scholars, but also a reference tool for general readers and music lovers curious about Gershwin and the American musical landscape in the early decades of the twentieth century.”—Stephanie Poxon, Center for the Arts, Richmond, Virginia Opera Journal
“‘George Gershwin’ captures many glints of how Gershwin's chutzpah, the sheer brazenness of his aspirations, produced musical gold.”—Ken Emerson Boston Globe Book Section
“This engaging biography is also a tour de force of scholarship.”—George Cohen Booklist
“Gershwin's output was greater than anything that can be written about it, and Pollack has here created the ultimate guide.”—Robert Croan Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“An essential purchase for all libraries and one of the best books available on Gershwin.”—Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville Library Journal
“Authoritative, exhaustive and bang-up-to-date, this is a modern classic.”—Classic FM-The Magazine
“The writing on his [Gershwin’s] music is invaluable. . . . This is some of the best musical analysis you're likely to find anywhere.”—Gene Lees Toronto Globe & Mail
“Seven decades after his death, the music of George Gershwin (1898-1937) remains as ubiquitous as it was during his brief but prolific lifetime. And, as Pollack's exhaustively researched and endlessly fascinating book demonstrates, there is still plenty to say about it. . . . It is hard to imagine even the casual fan not having fun at least thumbing through it [the book]. And it is equally hard to imagine that anyone will write a more thorough study of Gershwin's music anytime soon, if ever—or that anyone will feel the need to, now that Howard Pollack has had his say.The last word should go to Gershwin's brother and primary lyricist, Ira. In a line he liked so much he set it to George's music twice — in ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘Nice Work if You Can Get It’ — Ira presciently provided a succinct and appropriate review: Who could ask for anything more?”—Peter Keepnews New York Times Book Review
“Gershwin's output was greater than anything that can be written about it, and Pollack has here created the ultimate guide.”—Robert Croan Toledo Blade
“Seven decades after his death, the music of George Gershwin (1898-1937) remains as ubiquitous as it was during his brief but prolific lifetime. And, as Pollack's exhaustively researched and endlessly fascinating book demonstrates, there is still plenty to say about it. . . . It is hard to imagine even the casual fan not having fun at least thumbing through it [the book]. And it is equally hard to imagine that anyone will write a more thorough study of Gershwin's music anytime soon, if ever—or that anyone will feel the need to, now that Howard Pollack has had his say.The last word should go to Gershwin's brother and primary lyricist, Ira. In a line he liked so much he set it to George's music twice — in ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘Nice Work if You Can Get It’ — Ira presciently provided a succinct and appropriate review: Who could ask for anything more?”—Peter Keepnews International Herald Tribune
“Pollack offers a look at Gershwin so exhaustive and comprehensive that it stands as a definitive statement.”—Publishers Weekly
“Offers jewel-like images of the protean composer burning off his excess energy . . . big, glorious chapters on masterworks like ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and ‘Porgy and Bess.’”—New Yorker
“An impressive new biography. . . . With George Gershwin: His Life and Work, Pollack emerges as the leading chronicler of important 20th-century American classical-music figures.”—Charles Ward Houston Chronicle
“Who'd have guessed that a scholarly, in-depth biography of a long-dead, faintly enigmatic musician would be such a gripping read? Howard Pollack hits every note of Gershwin's brief existence with facts, anecdotes and speculations, seeking inspirational sources for his early work. The result is a meticulous, frank look at a gifted celebrity of the 1920s and '30s, and the ways in which developing technology, from printed sheet music to Pianolas to radio, affected Gershwin's life and music. The level of detail is breathtaking. . . . Pollack's writing style resembles Gershwin's music. It's tightly wrought, witty and gets straight to the point.”—Charleston Post & Courier
“Pollack . . . has examined his subject’s accomplishment’s and reputation with admirable industry and thoughtfulness, and has raised the important questions about Gershwin’s rightful standing in the American pantheon.”—Algis Valiunas The American Prospect
"Filled with new and revelatory information, Howard Pollack's fascinating and meticulous book is the closest anyone has come to capturing the essence of Gershwin's life and work"—Michael Feinstein, Grammy Nominated Singer-Songwriter

"The scholarship and breadth of coverage are remarkable. This outstanding work should become the first port of call for any future study of Gershwin's life and works."—Andrew Lamb, author of 150 Years of Popular Musical Theatre and Leslie Stuart, Composer of Florodora

"Brilliantly researched. Howard Pollack has written the most comprehensive survey of Gershwin's music."—Robert Kimball, editor, The Complete Lyrics of Ira Gershwin

Deems Taylor Award, American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers

Best Research In Recorded Popular Music ARSC Awards for Excellence, Association for Recorded Sound Collections

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