#composer: George Gershwin

#composer: George Gershwin

George Gershwin was one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1898 to Russian-Jewish parents who had emigrated to America because of anti-Jewish sentiment in Russia. George was their second child. He grew up in the Yiddish Theater District of New York and became interested in music when he was 10 years old: his parents bought a piano for his older brother Ira.

Gershwin began a career in the music business at the age of 15: he got a job as a songwriter at the music publisher Tin Pan Alley. His unique mixture of classical and popular music soon began to enjoy success. He composed some of the most famous works of the jazz age.

Gershwin's best-known work is Rhapsody in Blue , which premiered in 1924. This piece was Gershwin's musical breakthrough. It combined elements of classical music with jazz to create a new, exciting sound. The piece was a worldwide success and confirmed Gershwin's position as one of the most innovative and important composers of his time.

Another famous work by Gershwin is the opera Porgy and Bess from 1935. This opera is considered one of the most important works in American musical history and is still regularly performed on the world's major stages. It tells the story of a group of African-American people in the fictional community of Catfish Row, South Carolina, and deals with themes such as love, poverty and racism.

In addition to his compositions, Gershwin was also a gifted pianist. He regularly performed his own compositions and was known for his virtuoso playing. As a prolific songwriter, he wrote many popular songs. Most of the lyrics were written by his older brother: Ira and George had a close and long-standing artistic working relationship and composed numerous musicals together. Many songs from these musicals are still jazz standards today.

Gershwin's music is still enjoyed today; his blend of classical and popular music put him ahead of his time and continues to inspire musicians and composers to this day. His works are regularly performed by orchestras, jazz bands and opera houses around the world. At the same time, his music is a testament to the enduring power of American popular song and to the continuing influence of jazz and Broadway on American culture.

Sadly, George Gershwin's life ended at the age of 38 from a brain tumor, but his legacy and influence on music will live on forever.

Well-known and lesser-known songs by George Gershwin are on the program of the JCOM concert Jewish Jazz on February 7, 2023.

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