FASCINATING RHYTHM: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin by Deena Rosenberg

FASCINATING RHYTHM: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A music historian with a fine interpretive ear for both music and language examines the collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin--in what is not a biography but rather a nontechnical study of how the Gershwins' music, lyrics, and sense of drama are interrelated. With the help of in-depth interviews with Ira Gershwin, Rosenberg (Music Theater Program/NYU; The Brothers Gershwin, 1989--not reviewed; coauthor, The Music Makers, 1978) traces the creative development of the major Gershwin songs and shows. After a short discussion of the brothers' upbringing and exceedingly different temperaments (""We never had much in common as kids,"" Ira recalled. ""I was always home reading...[George] would get into street fights and come home with black eyes""), she launches into a wide-ranging discussion of Rhapsody in Blue and ""The Man I Love,"" the breakthrough song in which the Gershwins first discovered their ""ability to make a song intrinsically dramatic."" Next comes an examination of Lady, Be Good; here, Rosenberg cites one major reason why the brothers--especially at first--were so different from other collaborators: In the early days of musical comedy, stars were chosen and songs composed before the ""book"" (i.e., plotline, dialogue) was written, a separatist approach very much against the symbiotic Gershwin instinct. Other chapters study such shows as Oh, Kay! and Girl Crazy and explain such pivotal details as how George's ""blue"" notes affect the meaning of Ira's words. The chapter on Porgy and Bess is especially interesting. ""Above all,"" writes Rosenberg, ""Porgy and Bess is suffused with two [Gershwin] characteristics....The first is a depiction of deep loneliness....The second...is an appreciation of a diverse national character."" Though at times too detailed for the general reader, Rosenberg's straightforward prose is a pleasure. Intriguing and insightful, casting new light on the Gershwin genius.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1991
ISBN: 0472084690
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dutton