for forthcoming uk programmes of jewish or israeli interest

COTW: George Gershwin

four afternoons this week (monday 31st and wednesday 2nd to friday 4th), 12.00-1.00pm, on bbc radio 3
george gershwin (1898-1937) (presented by donald mcleod) (in the composer of the week series)

1. Gershwin’s early life and love of the piano.
2. Gershwin and jazz.
3. Gershwin’s excursions in the concert hall.
4. Gershwin’s final years.

1. Gershwin’s early life and love of the piano.
When he was a child, Gershwin’s mother Rose, aspiring to upward-mobility, decided the family needed a piano, and that her Ira would learn to play it. But it was the hoisting up and in through the window of the family’s Lower East Side apartment, of a second-hand upright, bought on the instalment plan, which, literally, opened a window on a new world for Ira’s younger brother George. From his beginnings as a song plugger and jobbing accompanist to his own performances of his own concert works, the piano is at the centre of Gershwin’s life and music.
2. Gershwin and jazz.
For many, George Gershwin was the foremost composer of the “jazz age” and it’s through jazz-inflected interpretations that his music has reached its widest audience.
3. Gershwin’s excursions in the concert hall.
George Gershwin never really understood why so many people – then, as now – insist on putting popular and classical music in hermetic compartments. After the immense success of Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin gave more time to concert music. He may have been the toast of Broadway, but his attempts to move musically out of the theatre district and into the hallowed portals of the city’s concert halls were, despite some successes, constantly frustrated and a source of disappointment to him.
4. Gershwin’s final years.
In the summer of 1934, Gershwin settled in for a long stay in Charleston, South Carolina, renting a ramshackle beach cottage on Folly Island, a barrier island off the coast: no running water, no telephone and sand crabs everywhere. He shipped in an upright piano and delighted in his visits to local churches, where he joined in, enthusiastically, with some of the more exuberant moments of congregational participation. It was this period in which he finally formulated his magnum opus, the opera Porgy and Bess.”

(if you miss them, available at

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