"Swingin’ Words: Jazz is my voice –
The Gershwin Story”
Acting / readings / vocals
Clarinet / vocals
Völckersstraße 14-20, Hamburg
Thursday, 17 November 2011,
About George Gershwin
George Gershwin, born in 1898 as Jacob Gershovitz in Brooklyn, New York City, was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Morris Gershovitz and Rose Gershovitz. In 1910, the Gershwins bought a piano for the music lessons of their older son Ira but soon it was George Gershwin who played it. Two years later Charles Hambitzer became his piano teacher, and remained his mentor until his death in 1918. Hambitzer taught George Gershwin conventional piano skills and had him play the European masters. He encouraged him to go to orchestral concerts (and George then tried to reproduce the music he had heard on the piano at home). From 1914, George Gershwin worked as "house pianist" for the New York music publishers Jerome H. Remick. He was soon put in charge of playing his publisher’s new songs to band leaders and theatre agents in order to sell them. Inspired by this activity, he tried his hand at composing his own songs and dance pieces.
His ragtime "Rialto Ripples" was composed in 1916 and became a financial success. In 1918 he achieved his first US-wide hit with the song "Swanee", which led to his recognition as a composer, initially on Broadway. During his trip to Europe in 1928 he got to know Igor Stravinsky. He had a prolonged love affair with the composer Kay Swift, and another with the actress Paulette Goddard. While George Gershwin was in Hollywood working on the "The Goldwyn Follies" score, he collapsed at the grand piano and died at 10:35 hours on 11 July 1937 from a brain tumour.
Gershwin composed pieces for Broadway as well as classical concerts. His brother Ira wrote the lyrics for most of George Gershwin’s compositions. In 1924 George and Ira together produced the musical comedy "Lady, Be Good". This was followed by "Oh, Kay!" (1926); "Funny Face" 1927; "Strike Up the Band" (1927 and 1930); "Girl Crazy" (1930), with the song "I Got Rhythm" which became a classic; "Of Thee I Sing" (1931), the first musical comedy, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. In 1933 "Pardon My English" was published, the only musical of that era set in Germany (in Dresden). Prior to his work on the opera "Porgy and Bess", Gershwin spent a summer on Folly Island near Charleston, South Carolina in order to familiarise himself with Afro-American music.
George and Ira Gershwin were one of the most successful teams on Broadway.