George Gershwin was one of the most popular American composers of all
time and wrote mostly for the Broadway musical theatre. However, his orchestral and
piano compositions are significant works as well, as he combined the techniques and forms of classical music, with the stylistic elements of jazz.
the age of 16, Gershwin left school to work for the music-publishing firm,
Jerome H. Remick & Co. as a song plugger. Gershwin frequently
improvised on the songs by adding his own musical ideas as embellishments, and
this helped to develop his skills as an improvisational pianist. It was also
during this time where he started discovering more about jazz music.
Gershwin had knowledge on jazz, he also wanted to master the art of Western
classical music. Gershwin had many musical mentors throughout his lifetime,
including Joseph Schillinger, Rubin Goldmark, Henry Cowell, Edward
Kilenyi and Charles Hambitzer, who helped to formalize his classical music
training. In his
own time, Gershwin studied the great classics of Western music, such as Bach’s
keyboard toccatas, Mozart’s G Minor Symphony and Schubert’s String Quintet in C
Major. He admired many composers, especially Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert,
Wagner, Brahms, Rimsky-Korsakov, Strauss, Debussy and Stravinsky. Therefore,
with the influences of these composers, as well as his mentors, Gershwin was
inspired to incorporate elements of classical music into his own works.
Gershwin’s style of writing remained within general contemporary conventions,
he drifted from the usage of conventional diatonic harmonies
and common rhythmic patterns and instead, used devices such as syncopation,
unusual modulations and chromaticism to enhance the dramatic content
of his works. By exposing himself to jazz music and studying Western classical
music, he picked up compositional techniques from both jazz and Western classical
music and merged them in his works.