I have long been a fan of Gershwin. Indeed I've played his Rhapsody in Blue more than a few times and have heard it and other serious music of his on several occasions. But I knew little about his life except his untimely death.
Here is the story of a musician so talented that every top composer he approached for lessons refused him. Maurice Ravel declined George's request to study with him. Nadia Boulanger, the great composition teacher through whose atelier passed almost every notable musician of the last century, turned him down. George never stopped studying and learning.
A 2-part book that looks not only at his brief life but also examines his work is designed for anyone who has an interest in music and the musical theatre as it was in the first third of the last century.
Well written, accompanied by copious notes, the book has one flaw and that is the author's frequent use of the phrase "as mentioned earlier" whenever a personality, event or activity is referred to later in the book, To me, this was a bit disconcerting in an otherwise well-written book.
Pollack brings to life the times in which Gershwin worked from his early days as a song plugger in Tin Pan Alley to his Broadway triumphs and his early and terribly short foray into the concert hall. Leaving us with the unanswerable question "What if?" It is populated with notable figures from Al Jolson, Oscar Levant, a close associate of George, Irving Berlin and Fred Astaire among others.
The author gives us a rather detailed but not technical review of Geshwin's work. In other words you don't have to be a musicologist to understand this part of the book.
I believe it is a great read for anyone who enjoys music, anyone who has an interest in the history of musical theatre and anyone who has an interest in history in general.
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