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 Search Beat > Arts > Music > Styles > Classical Music > Featured Composer > George Gershwin


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biography

Self-taught, brilliant, comfortable with both jazz and the classics, Gershwin (1898-1937) is a composer whose music straddles the musical theater and the concert hall with equal comfort. With his gift for easy, natural melodies and colorful orchestration, Gershwin is always entertaining. Here are his essential recordings.
recommended recordings
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, American in Paris / Bernstein

Composer: George Gershwin, Ferde Grofé
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
Performer: Leonard Bernstein
Ensemble: New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Sony Classics - #42264 / January 1, 1987

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This is a disc for the ages: here is American music, performed with mid-century flair, a moment never to be recaptured. Bernstein had an unparalleled feel for Rhapsody in Blue, and in this recording he brought it all home, doing full justice to the still-fresh, racy, moody, spontaneous, evocative score. His performance of the solo has a smoky, sultry jazziness to it, along with a brash exuberance; there is touching tenderness in the lullaby, a riveting dynamism in the fast pages. As constituted...Read more


Gershwin: Porgy and Bess / Rattle, White, Haymon, et al
Composer: George Gershwin
Conductor: Simon Rattle
Performer: Gregg Baker, Harolyn Blackwell, et al.
Ensemble: Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Emd/Emi Classics - #56220 / September 16, 1997

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An uncut Porgy & Bess may well be too long in the theater. On CD, though, you can play one act at a time, letting Gershwin's wide-eyed, inexhaustibly inventive score run its course at leisure in the comforts of your rumpus room. Some listeners might find Sir Simon Rattle's tempos on the draggy side, but he's got Gershwin's syncopated idiom down cold. Similarly, the singers fuse Gershwin's prodigious musical demands with effortless, characterful diction more succesfully than in other recordings,...Read more


Oh, Lady, Be Good! Best Of The Gershwin Songbook
George Gershwin (Tribute), Ella Fitzgerald

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Ella recorded five LPs' worth of Gershwin tunes for her songbook series, which was frankly a little much, so this single disc skims the cream. These songs are the ur-texts of American pre-war pop, straightforward love songs made to flow off a singer's tongue, and here they're in the hands of a master. Nelson Riddle's arrangements tend toward the soupy side--the bombastic string sections are distinctly nonjazz--but Ella, as always, sings with absolute taste and authority. She doesn't seem to be...Read more


Girl Crazy (Nonesuch)

Performer(s): Original Cast
Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch - #79250 / November 13, 1990

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Widely known for its (very loose) 1943 Hollywood adaptation with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, this musical is among the Gershwins' very best. Originally a star vehicle for Bert Lahr, the original 1930 production also featured Ginger Rogers and Ethel Merman. This new complete recording includes pros like Lorna Luft, Judy Blazer, Vicki Lewis, and David Carroll, and all of them do a bang-up job. The book is a mere pretext: most of the songs are self-contained and could be used in just about any...Read more


Gershwin, Ravel: Piano Concertos / Grimaud, Zinman

Composer: George Gershwin, Maurice Ravel
Conductor: David Zinman
Performer: Hélène Grimaud
Ensemble: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Wea/Atlantic/Erato - #19571 / November 25, 1997

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This is one class act. Helene Grimaud generally prefers the heavy-duty German repertoire and has fought hard not to be typecast as a dainty "French" female pianist. Nevertheless she has expressed a certain affection for selected French and non-Germanic works, which is a good thing for us because this is the best performance of the Gershwin concerto we are ever likely to hear. It has style, warmth, and bravura to spare. In fact, everyone concerned treats it like it's the greatest piece...Read more


works & recordings

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