Introduction v What his usual writing style was like

 

Introduction

 

Objectives:

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v  To find out how Western classical art music and jazz elements, which
are typical of Gershwin’s compositional style, are incorporated into Concerto
in F by analysing the orchestral score

 

Rationale for choosing this topic, lit review, methodology

 

Chapter 1: Background information on George Gershwin

 

v  How his writing style was developed during his lifetime

v  What his usual writing style was like

 

George Gershwin was born on September 26, 1898, in Brooklyn, New York.
He was one of the most popular American composers of all time and most of his
works were written for the Broadway musical theatre. However, his orchestral and
piano compositions are significant works as well, and in these works, he blended, in
varying degrees, the techniques and forms of classical music with the stylistic nuances and techniques of jazz and popular music.

 

At
the age of 16, Gershwin, dropped out of school and became a Tin Pan Alley song plugger
for the music-publishing firm, Jerome H. Remick & Co. Gershwin’s
experience as a song plugger aided the development of his
talents as an improvisational pianist due the fact that he frequently
improvised on the songs by adding his own musical ideas as embellishments. It
was also during this time where he started discovering more about jazz music.

While
working as a song plugger taught him a lot about American
popular music, such as jazz, Gershwin nevertheless wanted to increase his
knowledge of Western classical music. Gershwin had many musical mentors
throughout his lifetime, including Joseph Schillinger, Rubin Goldmark, Henry Cowell, Edward
Kilenyi and Charles Hambitzer, who helped to formalize his classical music
training. In his
own time, Gershwin studied the great classics of Western music, such as Bach’s
keyboard toccatas, Mozart’s G Minor Symphony and Schubert’s String Quintet in C
Major. He admired many composers, especially Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert,
Wagner, Brahms, Rimsky-Korsakov, Strauss, Debussy and Stravinsky. Therefore,
with the influences of these composers, as well as his mentors, Gershwin was
inspired to incorporate elements of classical music into his own works.

Although
Gershwin’s style of writing remained within general contemporary conventions,
he still drifted from the usage of conventional diatonic
harmonies and common rhythmic patterns and instead, used devices such as syncopation,
unusual modulations and chromaticism to enhance the dramatic content
of his works. The compositional devices which he employed were the result of
his studies of Western classical music, as well as his exposure to jazz during
his lifetime.

Chapter
2: Background information on Concerto in F

 

v  The
process behind composing the piece

An
opportunity for Gershwin to prove his compositional abilities came when he was
entrusted to compose a piano concerto for Walter Damrosch and the New York
Symphony Society, to be performed in seven concerts featuring Gershwin as the
soloist. On April 17, 1925, Gershwin signed an agreement to compose this
concerto. He wanted prove that the success of his Rhapsody in Blue was
based on his own abilities: “Many persons had thought that the Rhapsody
was only a happy accident. Well, I went out, for one thing, to show them that
there was more where that had come from. I made up my mind to do a piece of
absolute music. The Rhapsody was a blues impression. The Concerto would
be unrelated to any program.”

Over
the next several weeks after signing his agreement with the New York Symphony,
Gershwin immersed himself in treatises on concerto structure and orchestration.
Gershwin began composition of the new Concerto in the summer of 1925. The work
was finally completed on November 10, 1925. Before rehearsals with the New York
Symphony, Gershwin hired sixty New York musicians to participate in a private
“run-through” of the work at the Globe Theater, and this resulted in some cuts
in the score which served to tighten the Concerto’s structure. (Meltzer, n.d.)

 

 

Chapter
3: Analysis of how Gershwin incorporated classical elements in the work

 

v  How he portrayed classical elements in the work

 

Classical
elements:

 

– Use of counterpoint
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– Choice of instruments similar to early
romantic orchestra

– Long introduction is the composer’s
way of reflecting the classical tradition exemplified by Mozart and Beethoven,
in which the orchestra plays for an extended period of time while the performer
waits for his or her entrance.

– Traditional 3-movement concerto form

 

 

 

Chapter
4: Analysis of how Gershwin included jazz elements in the work

 

v  How he incorporated jazz influences in the work

Jazz elements:

– Muted brass instruments

– Charleston rhythm

– 3+3+2 rhythm

– blue scales

– linear chromaticism

– abrupt jazz-influenced
harmonic changes

 

Chapter
5: Conclusion

 

v  How the use of classical and jazz elements made Concerto in F a
significant work

 

The Concerto in F was
Gershwin’s last successful attempt to cross the classical and jazz genres by
combining the various elements of classical and jazz music. Gershwin’s true
compositional abilities were also shown in this work as he had orchestrated this
entire work by himself, unlike his more popular work, Rhapsody in Blue, which
was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé. Therefore, the Concerto in F was
significant in equally embracing both classical and jazz music, creating a
unique sound to music.

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