Sierra Chamber Society Program Notes

George Gershwin (1898-l937)

Lullaby for String Quartet (circa 1919)

Gershwin, not SpringsteenThe Lullaby was written in 1919 while Gershwin was studying harmony and counterpoint with Edward Kilenyi Sr. However, Gershwin was no mere student at the time. His first musical, La La Lucille, had been produced on Broadway that same year. Contrary to the Hollywood-ized image of him, Gershwin was devoted to studying music throughout his all too short life. He was constantly seeking to expand his knowledge and refine his technique. He used the opening theme of the Lullaby as part of an aria (Has Anyone Seen My Joe?) in his unsuccessful one-act opera of 1922, Blue Monday. Though the stage work was a failure, (it was part of "George White’s Scandals" and was withdrawn after a single performance), hearing the work caused Paul Whitman to commission a work for his upcoming Aeolean Hall concert. This work turned out to be Rhapsody in Blue.

The manuscript for Lullaby sat on Ira Gershwin’s shelf for decades until he showed it to harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler who transcribed it for harmonica and string quartet and presented it at the Edinburgh Festival in 1963. It was then transcribed for harmonica and orchestra. The work was not premiered in its original form until Oct. 28, 1967. It is often heard in a version for string orchestra.

1992-93 Season, Program IV, Sunday February 28, 1993

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All original text on this page copyright 1997 by Joseph Way