Monday February 19, 2018 5:36 am

"MR.MUSIC" - America's most popular and beloved composer


With Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin, master songwriter "crossed over" from popular song to serious music. It was originally scored for a jazz band, but it is the full symphonic scoring that has been played most often through the years. It is the kind of music that invites variations, adaptations and improvisations, and Gershwin – wizard improviser and transposer – would not have disapproved.

gershwin-gglabeque gershwin-ggroberts Surely he would have looked kindly at such latter-day adaptations as Katia and Marielle Labeque’s version for two pianos and Marcus Roberts’ Portraits in Blue – in performance with the LincolnCenter Jazz Orchestra and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

Click PLAY button to hear clip from Marcus Roberts’ version of Rhapsody in Blue

Gershwin did not have any elitist hang-ups. He reveled in being both a writer of popular song and a composer of serious music. He continued to write memorable tunes even as he was composing his serious works – comfortably "crossing over" from pop to classic and vice versa. In his 39 short years he wrote over 550 songs, many of them hits. And many of them favorites of today’s most renowned classical artists – tunes they love to sing or play when they’re in their best "crossover" mood.

gershwin-ggkiri ggrampal In the recording shown above, soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sings memorable Gershwin songs in the orchestrations that Gershwin himself heard.

And who would begrudge Jean-Pierre Rampal’s delight at his discovery of suitable transcriptions for flute:
"At last I could share in the talent and humanity of George Gershwin."

Click PLAY button to hear Kiri Te Kanawa sing clip from SOON
Click PLAY button to hear clip from Rampal’s version of Fascinatin’ Rhythm


It may have taken the great violinist Yehudin Menuhin decades to do a crossover, and when he did, it was to play (with jazz violinist Stephane Grapelli ) the violin adaptations of popular songs by Gershwin and the other great songwriters, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter.

gershwin-ggella gershwin-gghines2 But then there are times when you may want to listen to Gershwin’s songs sang the old-fashioned way – minus the filters of transcription or adaptation. No one can beat the great EllaFitzgerald -for vocal styling, lyrical charm, ease of delivery, and sheer delight. Or if you want to hear Gershwin played on Gershwin’s favorite musical instrument – minus orchestra – jazz pianist Earl Hines is a superb way to go. Gershwin himself was wowed by Hines’playing of Rhapsody in Blue without accompaniment. Hines has never since played a concert without a Gershwin piece.

Click PLAY button to hear clip from Lady Be Good

gershwin-ggmcgovern ggfeinstein And lest you think that Gershwin has not enthralled today’s pop singers…let the exhilarating Maureen McGovern take you on a different beat OR sit back and get pleasantly lost in Michael Feinstein’s soothing renditions of Pure Gershwin.

Click PLAY button to hear clip from I Got Rhythm
Click PLAY button to hear clip from Our Love Is Here To Stay
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