Posts Tagged ‘George Gershwin’
Broadway’s newest and biggest spectacle appears also to be it’s baddest: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark isn’t even officially up; still critics tired of waiting for the now thrice-postponed opening night have broken with tradition and begun to file reviews…
The most enthusiastic reaction has been from political pundit Glenn Beck, whose love for the show moved him to suggest
…give a kidney to go see ‘Spider-Man.’ I’m telling you, mark my words, it’s being panned right now, nobody’s saying good stuff about it. I’m telling you, you go buy your ticket — you buy your ticket now, if you’re thinking about coming to New York, because when this thing opens and it’s starting to run, you will not be able to get tickets to this for a year. This is one of those shows, this is the ‘Phantom’ of the 21st century. This is history of Broadway being made. I sat next to the casting director, by chance, and I said, ‘You, sir, are part of history.’
One thrills to imagine the show’s creative team, director Julie Taymor and composer Bono, reconciling themselves to that unlikely ally, as they face the reactions of more established theatrical observers– reviews that range from bad to excruciating.
As we hear the greasepaint and smell the crowd, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that a young man known at the time as a composer of Broadway tunes premiered a more serious piece: George Gershwin accompanied Paul Whiteman’s Palais Royal Orchestra in the first performance of Rhapsody in Blue. Gershwin’s piece concluded an “educational event” Whiteman staged to try to demonstrate that the relatively new form of music called jazz deserved to be regarded as a serious and sophisticated art form.
Just five weeks prior to the “Experiment in Modern Music” concert, Gershwin hadn’t agreed to compose for it. But when his brother Ira read a report in the New York Tribune that George was “at work on a jazz concerto” for the program, he was painted into a corner. Gershwin pieced together Rhapsody In Blue as best he could in the time available, leaving his own piano part to be improvised during the premiere. In the event, of course, Rhapsody has come to be regarded as one of the most important American musical works of the 20th century. It opened the door for a whole generation of “serious” composers—from Copland to Weill—to draw on jazz elements in their own important works.
UPDATE 2.12.11: Our ecstatically well-informed friend CE writes with a critical clarification:
Of course, old George forgot the main requirement of the assignment for the “Experiment”- that it be composed for orchestra with strings. The “Rhapsody” he turned in, three weeks before performance, was written for two pianos!
What we mostly hear and identify with Gershwin- the clarinet call, the surge of strings, the honking brass- was largely written by Paul Whiteman house arranger FERDE GROFE who went on to have a celebrated career as a composer in his day. His GRAND CANYON SUITE was the theme music for The Chesterfield Hour (cigarettes) and a later Walt Disney film. He was commissioned to write large orchestral pieces for The World’s Fair and for the opening of Niagara Falls power plant in 1964 and soundtracks to the likes of ROCKETSHIP X-M. Now of course, he is mostly a forgotten man. But from the 1930s to the early 1960s, glory was heaped on him as it was on few native born San Franciscans. A few years back, Dutch group The BEAU HUNKS recorded a lovely album of several of his least famous works THE MODERN AMERICAN MUSIC OF FERDE GROFE which is now available on iTunes.
(Your correspondent can attest: CE’s recommendations are always worth taking.)
The very first photograph was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who aimed a camera obscura, which held a polished pewter plate coated with bitumen of Judea (an asphalt derivative of petroleum), out the window of the upper-story workroom at his Saint-Loup-de-Varennes country house, Le Gras. After a day-long exposure, the plate was removed and the latent image of the view from the window was rendered visible by washing it with a mixture of oil of lavender and white petroleum, which dissolved away the parts of the bitumen which had not been hardened by light. The result was this permanent direct positive picture– a one-of-a-kind photograph on pewter:
(For more on Niépce and the story of his pioneering accomplishment, visit the source of this photo, the site of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.)
But in many ways as interesting as the first photo of anything is the first photo of a specific thing. OObject has curated a collection of a dozen of the most interesting “firsts,” from the first photo of a human face
… to the first photo on the web
More– from the first photo of the whole earth and the first x-ray to the first color photo and the first picture of the surface of another planet– at OObject.
As we say “cheese,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1935 that George Gershwin signed his name to the completed orchestral score of the opera Porgy and Bess. The composer considered the 700-page work his masterpiece; many critics agree, considering this first American opera to be the finest American opera.
From the title page of the manuscript score (source: Library of Congress)