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Gershwin's Lullaby for String Quartet
"for those...interested in...the comet called George Gershwin that blazed briefly across American skies, Mr. Rimler is the astronomer of choice" - The Wall Street Journal


This piece is in one movement.

It was in 1923 that Gershwin, having failed to prepare a harmony exercise for his third lesson with Rubin Goldmark (nephew of Hungarian composer Karl Goldmark and a pupil of Antonin Dvořák), turned in this composition, written several years earlier. As Gershwin later told it with some glee, Goldmark, upon looking at Lullaby, told the young composer, “It's plainly to be seen that you have already learned a great deal of harmony from me!” This, as it turned out, was Gershwin's last lesson with that particular teacher.

Lullaby was actually written in 1919 or 1920 as a harmony exercise for Edward Kilenyi. Gershwin wrote it both as a string quartet and a piano piece, although as a piano work, it remained unfinished and has not been published. In the months following its composition it was played as a string quartet by the composer's friends at private musicales. But it was not until 1922 that any of the music was heard publicly. The occasion was Gershwin's one-act opera Blue Monday, which turned the main idea of Lullaby into an aria entitled “Has Anyone Seen My Joe?”

For the next forty years, Lullaby remained unheard except in revivals of Blue Monday. In 1962 harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler mentioned to Ira Gershwin that, in recording a film score, he was going to overdub himself four times. The word “four” reminded Ira of Lullaby and he showed the manuscript to Adler. On August 29, 1963, Adler premiered his transcription of the piece for harmonica and string quartet in an appearance with the Edinburgh String Quartet at the Edinburgh Festival. He later recorded Morton Gould's arrangement for harmonica and string orchestra.

On October 29, 1967 Lullaby was finally performed publicly as Gershwin had written it. The occasion was a concert by the Juilliard String Quartet at the Library of Congress. As to its place in the Gershwin canon, Ira Gershwin, upon publication of the score in 1968, wrote, “It may not be the Gershwin of Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F, and his other concert works, but I find it charming and kind.”

One can listen to this piece on YouTube as performed by The Kufchak Strings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqT8XdiR8tw






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It's always such a delight, Walter, when you give a connection to a performance of the piece you're writing about.

This was not new to me, but it was the first time I'd seen it live. I listen to radio all day, every day. The visual, however, adds a new aspect to recalling the music now.


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Thanks, Dolores. It's great to know that you are enjoying these posts 

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A very informative post.  I

A very informative post.  I love Gershwin.  Bach tells me the world makes sense.  Once he's done that, Gershwin makes me happy to be a part of this world.

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Thank you

Very nicely said. I couldn't agree more.