George Gershwin was born in New York on September 26, 1898 to a family of Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire. At birth, the little Jewish boy was given the name Yakov. George had two brothers, Ira and Arthur, and a sister, Frances. The family lived quite poorly, in the small apartment, the head of the family, Morris Gershwin, worked at a shoe factory and there was barely enough money. Rosa Bruskina, George's mother, had always dreamed of her children getting good education and becoming teachers. Restless, mischievous and noisy little George did not study well at school, which clouded his mother's dreams. However, from his early childhood, Gershwin demonstrated peculiar interest in music and was completely fascinated by the performance of the young American violinist Max Rosen, the meeting with whom became fateful and determined the beginning of George Gershwin's musical path. The future composer began to take his first piano lessons and tried to learn the skill of improvisation off his own bat. At the same time, George brother Ira studied piano and dreamed of becoming a musician. Young George Gershwin devoted a lot of time to improvisation and succeeded in learning playing the piano, he even surpassed his older brother. George Gershwin career started in the music store of the publishing company “Jerome H. Remick and Co”. There, contrary to the dreams of his parents, as a sixteen-year-old boy, he began to work as a music sales representative and advertiser. “Every day at nine o'clock I was already sitting in the store at the piano, playing popular melodies for everyone who came in ...” – George Gershwin recalled. Performing the popular melodies of E. Berlin, Jerome Kern and many others, Gershwin dreamed of his own compositions. The debut of the songs by the eighteen-year-old musician on the Broadway stage marked the beginning of his composer's triumph. Over the next eight years, he created music for more than forty performances, sixteen of which were musical comedies.
By the beginning of the 1920s, George Gershwin becomes one of the most famous composers in America and then Europe. However, his creative temperament turned out to be cramped within the framework of pop music and operetta.
Gershwin dreamed of becoming, in his own words, a "real composer", mastering all genres, the entire completeness of technique for creating long-form pieces.
G. Gershwin did not receive a systematic musical education and all his achievements in the field of composition, he mainly owes to self-education and self-discipline, combined with irrepressible interest in the greatest musical phenomena of his time. Already a world-renowned composer, he did not hesitate to ask Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, and Arnold Schoenberg for lessons in composition and orchestration. A first-class virtuoso pianist, Gershwin for a long time continued to take piano lessons from the famous American teacher E. Hutcheson.
In 1924, one of the composer's best and most successful works, “Rhapsody in the Blue” for piano and symphony orchestra, was performed. The author performed the piano part. This work aroused great interest in the American musical community. The famous musicians - S. Rachmaninoff, Fr. Kreisler, J. Heifetz, L. Stokowski and others, attended the triumphantly successful premiere of “The Rhapsody”.
Following the Rhapsody, were Piano Concerto (1925), the orchestral flagship work “An American in Paris” (1928), The Second Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra (1931), “Cuban Overture” (1932). In these works, the combination of the early jazz traditions, Afro-American folklore, and Broadway pop music with the forms and genres of the European musical classics was embodied smoothly, defining the main stylistic feature of the music by Gershwin.
One of the significant events for the composer was his visit to Europe in 1928 and his meetings with M. Ravel, D. Milhaud, G. Auric, F. Poulenc, S. Prokofiev - in France; E. Krenek, A. Berg, Franz Lehár, I. Kálmán – in Vienna.
Along with symphonic music, Gershwin enthusiastically works for cinema. In the 1930s he periodically lived in California, where he created film score. At the same time, the composer again turned to theatrical genres. Among the works that he created during this period are the music for the satirical play "I Sing About You" (1931) and the opera "Porgy and Bess" (1935). The music of the opera is filled with expressiveness, beauty of intonation of black people songs, sharp humor, and sometimes grotesque, saturated with the authentic jazz elements.
At the height of his popularity, Gershwin collaborated with his older brother, Ira. The creative union of two brothers-musicians was a huge success, together they created several dozen compositions for Broadway performances and films. The best and most successful piece by George and Arthur was the musical "Lady, Be Good". One of the songs in the musical is recognized as the best love ballad of the last century. There is a theater in New York, which was named after the amazing creative union of two brothers - George Gershwin and Francis Arthur (a pseudonym used by Ira Gershwin, in which he combined the two names of his siblings).
Perhaps the painstaking and laborious process of creating such a significant piece as “Porgy and Bess” had a negative impact on the emotional and physical health of G. Gershwin, however, in 1936 he found a nerve to leave for Hollywood to work on creating music for movies. Soon his health deteriorated completely. In 1937, Gershwin was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Gershwin died on the morning of July 11, 1937, at the age of 38
The musician was buried in the Westchester Hills cemetery, which is located in the suburbs of New York.
Source: Belcanto.ru / The article author - I. Vetlitsyna