|About this Recording
8.554302 - Gershwin for Trumpet (arr. J. Bartos and P. Breiner)
IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO
and other Gershwin arrangements for trumpet and piano by Peter Breiner and Juraj Bartos
Hollywood, early 1937. Having returned home from an evening out with friends, George Gershwin sat down to work with his housemate and principal creative collaborator — his brother Ira. George wrote the music, Ira the lyrics, inspiring his brother with a line or two, or even a title. That night, as on so many other occasions, Ira suggested a few words which led to another hit for the already hugely successful partnership. It was an idea for a song for Fred Astaire, Ira saying, “… how about “a foggy day in London”… ?” George liked it, and “[they] finished the refrain, words and music, in less than an hour”. The next day they started on the verses, which took a while, as Ira remembered later, since they always put a lot into the verses, making them just as good as the refrain, even if audiences did not pay them as much attention.
George Gershwin wrote large-scale works such as the symphonic Rhapsody in Blue and the opera Porgy and Bess, but was first and foremost one of the greatest tunesmiths of all time, from Swanee (1919), the song that confirmed the young Tin Pan Alley song-plugger’s status as a composer, to Love is here to stay, unfinished at his death in 1937. His tunes turned into songs which were then gathered together to create stage and screen musicals, although the songs often bore little relation to their story-lines. Indeed in some cases the story-line’s sole function seemed to be simply to introduce one song or another. One song might also sometimes appear in more than one musical, for example The man I love, one of the Gershwins’ most famous creations, originally written for Lady, be good (1924). Try-outs in Philadelphia did not go well and George reworked the score, leaving out The man I love. A few years later he included it in Strike up the band, without much more success, and then in Rosalie (1928), dropping it again before the musical was even given its first performance. It finally became a hit in a London night-club, returning to the United States in triumph.
When songs were not met by uncomprehending audiences, they were sometimes met by uncomprehending publishers. The publisher of By Strauss, for instance, wrote to Gershwin to complain about the length of the verse and asking him to make some cuts. The composer refused, suggesting instead that they make particular mention of the length so that potential purchasers would know that they were getting more for their money, and adding that if the song did not sell, at least his grandchildren would be proud of a grandfather who had taken so much trouble over his verses.
A few weeks after writing A Foggy Day, the Gershwins were working on the chorus of Love is here to stay for The Goldwyn Follies of 1938, when George’s headaches became too severe to allow him to continue. He was operated on for a brain tumour but did not survive the surgery. Just a few months later Ravel died in Paris in similar circumstances, a coincidence linking two composers who had more in common than might be thought (Ravel had refused to teach Gershwin composition on the grounds that the world of music needed a Gershwin more than it did a second Ravel), specifically a capacity for concealing beneath a certain dandyism a very profound emotion, the kind of emotion that pervades more than one song in the programme recorded here, and which was particularly well conveyed in performance by Fred Astaire. (“Astaire” was by chance the last word spoken by Gershwin.)
Shortly after his death on 11th July 1937, a tribute concert to Gershwin was held featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Otto Klemperer, Oscar Levant, Al Jolson and Lily Pons, as well as Astaire, who sang They can’t take that away from me. And no one can take away from George Gershwin the place he occupies in the heart of all musicians.
English Version: Susannah Howe
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