Gershwin, George (1898 – 1937)

Gershwin’s compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known. Among his best-known works are the orchestral compositions Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928) as well as the opera Porgy and Bess (1935).

Gershwin studied piano under Charles Hambitzer and composition with Rubin Goldmark, Henry Cowell and Joseph Brody. He began his career as a song plugger, but soon started composing Broadway theatre works with his brother Ira Gershwin and Buddy DeSylva. He moved to Paris intending to study with Nadia Boulanger, who refused him, where he began to compose An American in Paris. After returning to New York City, he wrote Porgy and Bess with Ira and the author DuBose Heyward. Initially a commercial failure, Porgy and Bess is now considered one of the most important American operas of the twentieth century.

Gershwin moved to Hollywood and composed numerous film scores until his death in 1937 from glioblastoma multiforme, a malignant brain tumor.

Gershwin’s compositions have been adapted for use in many films and for television, and several became jazz standards recorded in many variations. Many celebrated singers and musicians have performed his songs. (source: Wikipedia)


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An American in Paris
BB BE 120502 – $80.00
9′ 00″ – professional

On a recommendation from Maurice Ravel, Gershwin arrived in Paris in March 1928 to meet with Nadia Boulanger. After playing only ten minutes of his music, Boulanger replied that she had nothing to teach him. This did not set Gershwin back, as his real intent abroad was to complete a new work based on Paris.

Composed in 1928 on a commission from the New York Philharmonic, An American in Paris was inspired by the time Gershwin had spent in Paris, evoking the sights and energy of the capital in the 1920s. Gershwin brought back some Parisian taxi horns for the New York premiere of the composition, which took place on December 13, 1928 in Carnegie Hall, with Walter Damrosch conducting. Gershwin noted in the original program notes “My purpose here is to portray the impression of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city and listens to various street noises and absorbs the French atmosphere.”

This arrangement by Michael Allen for 423.11 brass ensemble is a paraphrase and omits some of Gershwin development.

4 Trumpets in B flat (one doubles on Piccolo and one doubles on Flugelhorn), 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba, Percussion


Rialto Ripples – a Rag
BB BE 000802 – $38.00
3′ 00″ – intermediate

You may remember hearing this chart used as the theme song for the Ernie Kovaks show during the 1950’s.  In fact, Jack Newlon ‘borrowed’ the first strain from Gershwin’s only rag for his own composition the Oriental Blues which was the music used by Mr. Kovaks for his radio and television programs from 1951 – 1963.

In 1917 at the age of 19, Gershwin wrote Rialto Ripples with his colleague Will Donaldson (serving as arranger) while both were employed at the Jerome Remick Publishing House.  Allegedly, the piece was written by Gershwin while riding the 5th Avenue bus.  Rialto is a pseudonym for Broadway, and the Ripples refers to rain on his hotel window reflecting the lights of Broadway.  Rialto Ripples was one of the first of many ‘ripples’ pieces that would appear in the 1920s and 1930s.

arranged by Michael Allen for Piccolo in B flat, 2 Trumpets in B flat, Flugelhorn, 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba, optional Percussion


Three Preludes
BB BE 120501 – $60.00
7′ 00″ – professional

These short piano pieces were first performed by Gershwin at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York in 1926. and are excellent examples of Gershwin’s ability to meld classical music and jazz.

Following in the footsteps of Bach and Debussy, Gershwin originally planned to compose twenty four preludes, but only completed seven. Gershwin is rumored to have performed only five of them in public, and ultimately only these three were published in 1926.

arranged by Michael Allen for 4 Trumpets in B flat (one doubles on Piccolo and one doubles on Flugelhorn), 2 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium, Tuba, Percussion