Yes, I must admit that I am somewhat prone to hero-worship particularly when someone writes something with which I totally agree - well, anyone who agrees with me can't be bad, can they? In this case I refer to Mr. Daniel Gelernter who writes for the excellent National Review and discloses his total admiration for the late and truly great George Gershwin. Now, as regular readers will know full well because I never stop reminding them, when it comes to music I have considerable difficulty in telling the difference between a crotchet and a quaver! Even so, and in the belligerent tone of 'know-nothings' everywhere, I never hesitate to state my tastes and preferences at the drop of a hat - I truly do like and admire George Gershwin. Mr. Gelernter puts it this way:
The show opened with the vivacious and utterly captivating Cuban Overture, followed by Audra McDonald singing “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. The final number was An American in Paris, Gershwin’s most beloved concert work after Rhapsody in Blue. It was obvious from watching the audience smiling, sitting up in their seats, and nodding their heads with the music that people love Gershwin today just as much as they always have: When the first all-Gershwin concert was given in New York in 1932, it filled Lewisohn Stadium beyond capacity to 18,000 and left another 5,000 disappointed concertgoers on the street outside. It was twice as popular as a typical ’30s Yankees game.
Just last week I climbed into my car and switching on my radio it opened part way through Rhapsody in Blue and immediately I was uplifted and delighted and only grumpy because I had missed the first part! Anyway, Mr. Gelernter continues his essay thus:
And yet Gershwin is rarely performed by today’s leading orchestras. Howard Hirsch hit the nail on the head in his program notes for the evening: He observed that the musical establishment was profoundly irritated that “a more or less self-taught Broadway tunesmith presumed to write ambitious concert works” and that these works were “boisterously successful.”
Gershwin’s music is at once beautiful, exhilarating, and totally original. He captured the essence of a young, enthusiastic, but thoughtful America better than any other artist. He deserves to be considered one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. One could make a compelling case that he is the greatest composer of the 20th century, but music buffs and scholars tend to laugh: Gershwin, they say, is not “serious” music.
To be fair, I am not sure that I could go along with describing Gershwin as "the greatest composer of the 20th century' because in my unmusical brain that would mean displacing Dmitri Shostakovich which is unthinkable. Anyway, give Mr. Gelernter a read, he's worth it.