May (or Month #9) Composer Study

George Gershwin:

In May, listen to these four pieces of George Gershwin's (one each week).

This month, we listen to some instrumental music of George Gershwin's.

Week 1:

Rhapsody in Blue has an extensive piano solo in it. A rhapsody is a free form symphonic work. Gershwin was a wonderful pianist and played it for the first performance in 1924. It was commissioned by Paul Whiteman (known as the King of Jazz) because Whiteman wanted jazz to be accepted in the concert hall. And Rhapsody in Blue helped that happen by combining classical music and jazz styles! It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofe.

George said this: “Jazz I regard as an American folk music; not the only one, but a very powerful one which is probably in the blood and feeling of the American people more than any other style of folk music.”

The piece may be familiar to you from another source. It's the musical backdrop to popular United Airlines commercials.

Week 2:

George Gershwin wrote An American in Paris in 1928 after spending some time living in Paris and studying composition with the famous music composition teacher Nadia Boulanger. As you listen to it, see if you can hear the hustle and bustle of the Paris city, cars honking, and other city sounds:

Week 3:

Piano Concerto in F

Week 4:

3 Piano Preludes

  • 1. Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
  • 2. Andante con moto e poco rubato
  • 3. Agitato

Just for fun, listen to a 1928 recording of the same piano pieces played by Gershwin himself:

Living Books about Gershwin:

(Find all links to these books here.)

  • George Gershwin (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers) by Mike Venezia
  • Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue by Anna Harwell Celenza
  • Summertime by Dubose Heyward

Composer Sheet.pdf
Music Listening Sheet.pdf
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