Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gershwin - clean, rhythmic yet free as a bird


Hello Bob, your asserting of the "middle way" is brilliant! If you don't mind, I'd like to use that term when I address audiences (with credit given to you for coining it). This is a perfect way to refer to the Glière, which is a piece I've known and loved for years. Indeed it is neither easy nor difficult. However, it is exceedingly difficult to write such music, and among all composers Glière is one of those who gets least credit for such an estimable accomplishment.

Your post brought back a memory: toward the end of my tenure with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, I went to film composer John Williams with a composition of mine (a large concert overture written in a style most unpopular with the academic composers teaching at my school and many others). Williams was very complimentary and offered this perspective upon it and, I think, what he was and is doing as a composer. He said "People don't realize how difficult it is to write in a populist idiom." And hence it is easy to dismiss exceptional music based upon the superficial perspective of outward appeal. Williams' words have stayed with me, and yours today echo and refine his. Bravo!

Regarding butchered Gershwin, here's a link [see above] to what I think is an extraordinary performance of Gershwin. What struck me here is the lack of effortful affectation in the manner that most American musicians now play Gershwin, stretching it out of shape to mimic feeling. [The pianist is Ludmil Angelov.] This sounds much like Gershwin himself played his own work: clean, rhythmic yet free as a bird. I'm sending it to you as a riposte to the many execrable Gershwin performances, some of which I was compelled (by a paycheck!) to participate in.

All best, John McLaughlin Williams
More than happy for John to use the 'middle way' analogy in his concert preambles, particularly if the performances are as scintillating as the one in the video above. But credit goes to the Buddha, not me - 'middle way' was one of several playful Buddhist references in that post. And John has more to say on the featured composer in 'It's Gershwin! It's Glorious! It's Ghettoization!'

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1 comment:

Philip Amos said...

I am always happy to find John's contributions here, be they in words or music, but never moreso than listening to the Gershwin performance. Angelov's performance is something of a wonder, but so too is 'Glorious John's' accompaniment (the analogy, which I don't think too recondite, is a thoughtful one on my part), and Ludmil happily displays his agreement on that point. As Solomon once said of the other Glorious John, "How could I fail with an accompaniment like his?" Barbirolli was a bit of a micromanager, as it were, whereas John seems more inclined to let the orchestra in parts have their head, but the result in both cases is a very happy outcome indeed. Thanks to all.