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George Gershwin is one of the giants of American music, unique in that he was both a brilliant writer of popular songs (“Swanee,” “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”) and of more serious music, including “Rhapsody in Blue,” “An American in Paris,” and “Porgy and Bess.” Now, in The George Gershwin Reader, music lovers are treated to a spectacular celebration of this great American composer.
The Reader offers a kaleidoscopic collection of writings by and about Gershwin, including more than eighty pieces of superb variety, color, and depth. There is a who’s who of famous commentators: bandleader Paul Whiteman; critics Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, and Brooks Atkinson; fellow musicians Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Alec Wilder (who analyzes the songs “That Certain Feeling” and “A Foggy Day”), Leonard Bernstein, and the formidable modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg (who was Gershwin’s tennis partner in Hollywood). Some of the most fascinating and important writings here deal with the critical debate over Gershwin’s concert pieces, especially “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris,” and there is a complete section devoted to the controversies over “Porgy and Bess,” including correspondence between Gershwin and DuBose Hayward, the opera’s librettist (a series of excerpts which illuminate the creative process), plus unique interviews with the original Porgy and Bess–Todd Duncan and Anne Brown. Sprinkled throughout the book are excerpts from Gershwin’s own letters, which offer unique insight into this fascinating and charming man. Along with a detailed chronology of the composer’s life, the editors provide informative introductions to each entry.
Here then is a book for anyone interested in American music. Scholars, performers, and Gershwin’s legions of fans will find it an irresistible feast.