George Gershwin's only work for solo violin with piano accompaniment, Short Story, was premiered by violinist Samuel Dushkin accompanied by Gershwin at the University Club of New York on February 8, 1925.
Dushkin (for whom Igor Stravinsky wrote his violin concerto) dropped by Gershwin's residence in late 1924 to ask if the composer had a piece he might play at an upcoming concert. Gershwin brought out his notebooks and Dushkin noticed they contained a series of piano pieces called “novelettes.” With some input from Dushkin, the composer fused two of the “Novelettes” into a single work. One piece, marked Allegretto scherzando, had been written in 1919 or thereabouts and was recorded by Gershwin in that year on a piano roll issued by the Welte-Mignon Company. The other, marked Andantino con fantasia, was an August 30, 1923 entry in his notebook.
The new piece was published in 1925 by B. Schott. On December 4, 1926, Gershwin gave a joint recital with Marguerite d'Alvarez, a contralto of Peruvian background. At the recital he accompanied her in a group of his popular songs and, in addition, played five piano preludes. Three of those preludes were published as a suite. There is some doubt about the identity of the other two but they may well have been the pieces used to fashion Short Story.
Short Story was published (also by Schott) in a two-piano arrangement by Al and Lee Reiser.
The work can be divided into five sections:
A Chopinesque beginning with grace notes and other ornaments acting upon a whimsical idea that is played high in the treble. This was probably the opening of the Andantino con fantasia, written in 1923.
A contrastingly stern idea which becomes louder and more willful, then passionate.
The first idea repeated.
A lighthearted ragtime in which a syncopated tune is played high in the treble against a stride um-pah in the bass. This section is derived from the Novelette in Fourths written in 1919.
A brief return to the first idea.
Dushkin recorded this with Max Pirani in 1928. A 1954 recording by violinist Gerhard Tascher can be heard on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yodCDOdk7CE. In 1985 it was recorded as a piano solo by Michael Tilson Thomas which can be heard at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk2rm4SuZ0Y. Tilson Thomas has done some “reconstructing” here. Also in 1985, Kevin Cole recorded the piece as a piano solo and is truer to the piece as originally published.