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George Gershwin
September 26, 1898 – June 11, 137
Who was George Gershwin?
Both of his parents were Russian Immigrants
One of 4 children
 He learned to love music by attending a friends recital
 He had a natural talent
 He composed many different types of music
1910 The Gershwin Family
purchased their first Piano.
1912 George began studying
under Charles Hambitzer
He dropped out of school and
began working as a “song plugger”
What is a “song plugger”? a pianist who plays
music inside a music store in order to sell the
new sheet music
1916 George published his first song “When
you Want Em you can’t get Em”
Began working for Harms
Composed “Swanee” and his
Fame began
In the 1920’s George and his brother Ira joined
together to write several shows.
Lady Be Good (1924)
Primrose (1924)
Tell Me More (1924)
Tip Toes (1925)
Oh Kay (1926)
Funny Face (1927)
Rosalie (1928)
Treasure Girl (1928)
Show Girl (1929)
Strike Up the Band (1929).
“Rhapsody in Blue”
Commissioned by “Paul Whitman” in 1924
Jazz influenced for Piano and Orchestra
George has 6 weeks to compose this piece
Inspired by the sound of the train on the tracks
Gershwin improvised the piano solos himself
Opened February 12, 1924
Let’s listen to
“Rhapsody in Blue”
not a composition at all but a
string of …terrific tunes…stuck
together with a thin paste of flour
and water
This is a quote by Leonard Bernstein in an article on
Classical notes
Listening Guide for “Rhapsody in Blue”
The piece starts out with the Clarinet playing a moderate tempo
The Clarinet continued but the tempo moves a little faster and the woodwinds join in.
At this point the a small piano solo begins
The entire orchestra joins in for just a few seconds, your ear turns to hear the cymbals
chime in
The extended piano solo begins, during this solo, that is about 2 minutes long, there
are several repeated cords. The theme of the solo is a blues theme.
The tempos slows down
Tempo speeds up again
The full orchestra joins in again with a fast tempo. The theme continues to be a Blues
The full orchestra is continuing to play using a march like theme. (I would compare
this part of the piece to something out of a Disney movie).
The flute joins in playing in slow flutters.
The tempo speeds back up with the full orchestra playing.
A small trumpet solo plays at this point of the piece.
A Jazz theme is being played by the full orchestra.
There is a short pause and then the clarinet starts playing a slow tempo followed by
the full orchestra chiming in with the piano accenting the sound.
Another extended piano solo playing several repeated cords. This was an amazing
section of the piece, the only way I can explain it is that it is a Jazz like theme.
The piano solo is still playing using a slow tempo and repeated notes.
The tempo speeds up and almost sounds like it is a race.
The tempo slows down again and speeds up again. The piece is playing repeated notes.
10:00 – 11:00
The piano solo continues using repeated note for about a full minute
The Strings join in and begin to play a soft melody. The theme turns to a Romantic
The cymbals join the strings.
The full orchestra joins in again
The melody moves to a higher tempo.
Another piano solo, this starts out slow and then changes to fast and then slow again.
The theme is still Romantic.
The melody here is suspenseful. It almost sounds like something scary is going to
At this point the woodwinds join the piano.
The full orchestra join in playing a Jazz theme.
The full orchestra is still playing a distinct sound, the cymbals and piano stand out.
Gershwin composes his first Opera
“Porgy & Bess”
Off to Hollywood for George and Ira!
July 11, 1937 George Gershwin Passes Away at
the age of 39!
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"George Gershwin." Bio. 2014. A&E Television Networks. 29 September 2014.
Cracium, Liviu. CMUSE. n.d. 01 October 2014. <>.
George Gershwin. 2004. Encyclopedia of World Biography. 01 October 2014. <http;//>.
George Gershwin. n.d. 06 October 2014. <>.
George Gershwin. n.d. 06 October 2014. <>.
Gutmann, Peter. Classical Notes. 2003. 01 October 2014.
Music Academy Online. n.d. 01 October 2014. <http;//>.
Pollack, Howard. George Gershwin, His Life and Work. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006.