Friday, July 1, 2016

George Gershwin and WHO??? - How Some Puzzles Form and Create Human History...

For a reason I will never be given an answer to, a name popped up; one I had not thought of since my high school days. To begin:
Kilenyi?  Yes indeed; Kilenyi..... I pondered for a number of seconds; then - of course! Edward Kilenyi, who captivated my young ears with his playing, especially of Chopin and some Beethoven!
HOW did I remember him? I cannot at all remember whether it was a live recital; or a recording or two;  or was it a visit to Eastman, where he might have  played for someone informally? I simply cannot recall. But his playing  captured me for, I think, a brief period.  And nothing more - except that what at present has come   to mind, now that I know a little more  than I did then, all kinds of pieces to a puzzle that began with the young Edward Kilenyi -  tidbits that I haven't thought about since my young days:
Kilenyi's father, Edward Senior, was himself a strong musician, both in performance and in teaching, and I believe that there may be some recordings of him extant, as I  do know exist of his son.
Which brings in George Gershwin, who studied piano, harmony  and some  composition with  Kilenyi Sr.  for some time, as well as piano   with Charles Hambitzer, another well-known teacher of that period. According to George's surviving brother, Ira, Kilenyi and Hambitzer had a rather profound influence on the young genius, and, to me, this  begins a  part of some  disagreement with the still existing argument on the   part of some that Gershwin's genius overpowered the paucity of his musical education, and that  he triumphed in spite of his rather sizeable   lack of knowledge of the arcane force called Music.
Actually, even though Gershwin dropped out of high school, he sought out various teachers before the life  of fame  began at about age 21 with his tune "Swanee."
He  studied the Schillinger Method with Joseph Schillinger himself, along with counterpoint.  Gershwin also studied with composers Henry Cowell and Rubin Goldmark, and sought out such giants as Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky, let alone Schoenberg himself, all three of whom refused, primarily for the same reason; namely, "why get in the way of, and possibly impede the innate genius of this new young force?" Another giant Gershwin sought out for sessions in composition was Nadia Boulanger, who accepted him for a few lessons, then  ended them, fearing that both powerful composers and pedagogues could squelch and ultimately damage the purity of Gershwin's emerging language.
Encapsulation: Even though many experts felt that Gershwin's lack of  formal expertise  in composition was common knowledge, and that this kind of groundless thinking  lasted well into the end of the preceding century - well, this fallacious stance has finally been pretty well  quelled.
By the way, did you know that Gershwin and Schoenberg played tennis almost weekly, as both used the sport as a complete diversion from their creative worlds? Both composers became great friends, and Schoenberg was deeply affected by the untimely death of the American phenomenon.  There is a brief home movie (around 1937), filmed by Gershwin and his newly acquired movie camera, which contains delightful views of Schoenberg and his wife, which very clearly demonstrates the  depth of friendship these two men held  for each other. In a moving tribute after Gershwin's passing, Schoenberg called Gershwin "a great composer" and enumerated the reasons  germane to this revealing encomium. I have a photograph of Schoenberg, one of the giants that helped create  the immense transitional period we call the 20th century, relaxing on one of those cloth folding chairs in the Gershwin back yard at one of their many garden parties. Also do look at Gershwin's painting of Arnold Schoenberg. Do be reminded that George Gershwin was also  a gifted painter, and I'm quite sure that one can get to see an exhibit of his paintings at given times.
Imagine! All of the above coming out of the name Kilenyi! - Wonder what other delights still lurk in my now  grizzled  memory bank?

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