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George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait [Hardcover]

Walter Rimler

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Book Description

July 21 2009 Music in American Life
<div> <p class="Description">George Gershwin lived with purpose and gusto, but with melancholy as well, for he was unable to make a place for himself--no family of his own and no real home in music.

<p class="Description"> 

<p class="Description">He and his siblings received little love from their mother and no direction from their father. Older brother and lyricist Ira managed to create a home when he married Leonore Strunsky, a hard-edged woman who lived for wealth and status. The closest George came to domesticity was through his longtime relationship with Kay Swift. She was his lover, musical confidante, and fellow composer. But she remained married to another man while he went endlessly from woman to woman. Only in the final hours of his life, when they were separated by a continent, did he realize how much he needed her. Fatally ill, unprotected by (and perhaps estranged from) Ira, he was exiled by Leonore from the house she and the brothers shared, and he died horribly and alone at the age of thirty-eight.

<p class="Description"> 

<p class="Description">Nor was Gershwin able to find a satisfying musical harbor. For years his songwriting genius could be expressed only in the ephemeral world of show business, as his brilliance as a composer of large-scale works went unrecognized by highbrow music critics. When he resolved this quandary with his opera <u>Porgy and Bess,</u> the critics were unable to understand or validate it. Decades would pass before this, his most ambitious composition, was universally regarded as one of music’s lasting treasures and before his stature as a great composer became secure.   

<p class="Description"> 

<p class="Description">In <u>George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait,</u> Walter Rimler makes use of fresh sources, including newly discovered letters by Kay Swift as well as correspondence between and interviews with intimates of Ira and Leonore Gershwin. It is written with spirited prose and contains more than two dozen photographs.

</DIV>

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Review

"More thorough biographies than Mr. Rimler's slender volume exist ... but for those of us interested less in the technical details of Gershwin's music and its performance than in the comet called George Gershwin that blazed briefly across American skies, Mr. Rimler is the astronomer of choice."The Wall Street Journal


 

"Compact in length and voluminous in its details, Walter Rimler's study of Gershwin is freighted with melancholy—an appropriate parallel with Gershwin's own life."--TLS

"Rimler shines in weaving together anecdotes, correspondence and a wealth of interviews with the composer and his contemporaries to create a vibrant, flesh-and-blood picture of the man and his music in a readable and enjoyable book."--Jerusalem Post



 "An engrossing, well-written look at Gershwin, the composer and the man, with emphasis on the man."--Choice

"Engagingly written, lavishly illustrated. . . . With this volume, we get a focused portrait of George Gershwin, a genius plagued by self-doubt and a wandering eye."Opera News

Book Description

George Gershwin lived with purpose and gusto, but with melancholy as well, for he was unable to make a place for himself--no family of his own and no real home in music.

 

He and his siblings received little love from their mother and no direction from their father. Older brother and lyricist Ira managed to create a home when he married Leonore Strunsky, a hard-edged woman who lived for wealth and status. The closest George came to domesticity was through his longtime relationship with Kay Swift. She was his lover, musical confidante, and fellow composer. But she remained married to another man while he went endlessly from woman to woman. Only in the final hours of his life, when they were separated by a continent, did he realize how much he needed her. Fatally ill, unprotected by (and perhaps estranged from) Ira, he was exiled by Leonore from the house she and the brothers shared, and he died horribly and alone at the age of thirty-eight.

 

Nor was Gershwin able to find a satisfying musical harbor. For years his songwriting genius could be expressed only in the ephemeral world of show business, as his brilliance as a composer of large-scale works went unrecognized by highbrow music critics. When he resolved this quandary with his opera Porgy and Bess, the critics were unable to understand or validate it. Decades would pass before this, his most ambitious composition, was universally regarded as one of music’s lasting treasures and before his stature as a great composer became secure.   

 

In George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait, Walter Rimler makes use of fresh sources, including newly discovered letters by Kay Swift as well as correspondence between and interviews with intimates of Ira and Leonore Gershwin. It is written with spirited prose and contains more than two dozen photographs.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional book Oct. 19 2009
By Damien Slattery - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Just when you thought there could not be any more material to cover Gershwin's short life (the definitive Howard Pollack book of 2006 is possibly the greatest monument)- out comes this little book by Rimmler, and it opens new doors into the Gershwin world. Rimmler had access to private letters of Gershwin's lover Kay Swift, and they are distilled into the narrative. This book is a master class in economy, the condensing of information is brilliantly executed and cuts right to the core of fact. We fly along at breakneck speed, still managing to stumble over an anecdote or two that had previously been unheard of. This book is a little marvel! I am ranking it up there in the top five of best Gershwin biographies.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible! Jan. 26 2010
By A. C. Hughes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have long been convinced as a college professor, a choral director and a student of American music that George Gershwin ranks among the greatest if not THE greatest American composer. Mr. Rimler's book is a wonderful synthesis of his life and works and it was an unabated joy to read. I would recommend it to anyone who knows and loves Gershwin as I do or else wants to be introduced to this remarkable man. Thanks, Mr. Rimler for a wonderful read.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gershwin the greatest . Oct. 16 2009
By Robert J. Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an alltime admirerer of the music of George Gershwin, this book was just wonderful. I have read other books on Gershwin, but the detail and directness in the writing is just exceptional. It is also part of the history of American theatre in the early 20th century. Wonderful photos. Highly reccomend this book to anyone who is interested in Broadway & concert music.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Master Whose Work Has Aged Well Feb. 9 2010
By Chuck Brooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A well written and very readable narrative overview of George Gershwin and his times, with engaging thumbnails of the personalities he was associated with. A master songsmith without any formal musical training, the tunes he crafted cover the heyday of New York City's Tin Pan Alley, to the advent of Broadway musicals, as well as American Jazz and a uniquely American opera. Many of the tunes he wrote are still with us and popular today. The book gives a glimpse of the crafting of popular tunes, often accompanied by his brother Ira as lyricist, where a simple word or surprising musical phrase could make a song a hit. Long before MP3 players and iTunes, songsmiths' lived by royalties based on published sheet music, with the Gershwin brothers being consistent masters at it. Gershwin was working to broaden his appeal and artistic skills, but died before his personal masterpiece, Porgy and Bess, became widely recognized and acclaimed. Gershwin was not alone, and his time included other masters of popular music, entertainment and culture, though few as recognizable as he is today. The book's 173 pages are organized into 21 chapters, with an epilog of the subsequent careers and lives of those closest to him.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Left me wanting more.. Oct. 13 2012
By Always trying to be informed - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The last few chapters of this book are really touching and well-written. There is much that is left out in terms of George's death but the author points to some possibilities. It left me wanting to know more about the cast of characters and what kind of (dysfunctional) relationships must have been going on for George's health to be so easily cast aside as emotional not physical. And, once some of these ideas were stoked by this book, it left me wishing the author could have been better at alluding to these strange dynamics throughout the book. I guess that's the real challenge with biography, you can't get too creative... and out of respect for the Gershwins... But, what a tragedy to lose George at such a young age!

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