Monday, May 12, 2008

George Gershwin - America's Mozart?

Mentioning the names of Wolfgang Mozart and George Gershwin in the same sentence does not connote a comparison between Mozart and Gershwin in their development; for example, the veritably unbelievable attainments actuated by Mozart as a child are like no other creative artist. Gershwin, as a child, most assuredly did not put his stamp on history, as did the wonder child Mozart.
However, there were some parallels:
Both died in their thirties, at the height of their considerable powers. Both would undoubtedly have altered the face of artistic history had they lived on, say, another twenty years.
Gershwin, we know, created a new way of projecting music, as a very young man. His song "Swanee" was written at age nineteen, was embraced by the most famous pop singer of the day, Al Jolson, who inserted this tune into his musical revue "Sinbad"; the result was that a 20 year-old composer became powerful and famous in an incredibly short time. While still in his mid-twenties, his "Rhapsody in Blue" was performed before such musical giants as Rachmaninoff and Walter Damrosch, and this occasion altered the course of musical history.
One should be reminded that Mozart was not only that incredible young composer from Austria, but also, like Gershwin, tried new approaches, which tend to be overlooked because of the sensationalism connected with one so young; for instance, how about an opera with a brothel as centerpiece? Mozart positively horrified the royal entourage. And how about his writing opera in Italian? In Vienna?? At that time??
So there are parallels during these composers' life experiences.
Can we consider Gershwin, therefore, as America's Mozart?

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