Great Light Orchestras Salute George Gershwin and Jerome Kern
Great Light Orchestras Salute George Gershwin and Jerome Kern
1 Look For The Silver Lining (from "Sally"1920); They Didn’t Believe Me (from "The Girl From Utah" 1914); Long Ago And Far Away (from film "Cover Girl" 1944) (Jerome Kern)
ANDRE KOSTELANETZ AND HIS ORCHESTRA
2 Love Walked In (from "The Goldwyn Follies" 1938) (George Gershwin, arr. Robert Farnon)
ROBERT FARNON AND HIS ORCHESTRA
3 Why Was I Born (from "Sweet Adeline" 1929) (Jerome Kern)
DAVID ROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA
4 A Fine Romance (from film "Swing Time" 1936) (Jerome Kern, arr. Johnny Douglas)
JOHNNY DOUGLAS AND HIS ORCHESTRA
5 For You, For Me, For Evermore (from film "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim" 1947) (George Gershwin, arr. Percy Faith)
PERCY FAITH AND HIS ORCHESTRA
6 Who (from "Sunny" 1925); I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star (from "Music In The Air" 1932) (Jerome Kern, arr. Angela Morley)
KINGSWAY PROMENADE ORCHESTRA Conducted by STANLEY BLACK
7 Embraceable You (from "Girl Crazy" 1930) (George Gershwin)
FRANK PERKINS AND HIS ORCHESTRA
8 Fascinating Rhythm (from "Lady Be Good" 1924) (George & Ira Gershwin)
ANDRE KOSTELANETZ AND HIS ORCHESTRA
9 Can’t Help Singing (title song from 1944 film) (Jerome Kern)
THE MELACHRINO ORCHESTRA Conducted by GEORGE MELACHRINO
10 Strike Up The Band (title songs from 1927 musical) (George Gershwin)
DANISH STATE RADIO ENTERTAINMENT ORCHESTRA Conducted by KAI MORTENSEN
11 "Lovely To Look At" Film Selection (Jerome Kern, Otto Harbach) Lovely To Look At, You’re Devastating, Yesterdays, I Won’t Dance, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, The Touch Of Your Hand, Lovely To Look At.
RAY MARTIN AND HIS CONCERT ORCHESTRA
12 Liza (from "Show Girl" 1929) (George Gershwin, arr. Richard Jones)
THE PITTSBURGH STRINGS Conducted by RICHARD JONES
13 Long Ago And Far Away (from film "Cover Girl" 1944) (Jerome Kern, arr. Gordon Jenkins)
GORDON JENKINS AND HIS ORCHESTRA
14 Rhapsody In Blue (1924) (George Gershwin)
PHILIP GREEN AND HIS CONCERT ORCHESTRA with RONNIE SELBEY, piano
15 Can I Forget You (from "High, Wide and Handsome" 1937) (Jerome Kern)
GLENN OSSER AND HIS ORCHESTRA
16 The Way You Look Tonight (from film "Swing Time" 1936) (Jerome Kern, arr. Ron Goodwin)
RON GOODWIN AND HIS CONCERT ORCHESTRA
17 George Gershwin Suite (Gershwin) Strike Up The Band, Embraceable You, Do-do-do, Love Walked In, Swanee, Someone To Watch Over Me, S’Wonderful, I Got Rhythm, Bidin’ My Time, But Not For Me, Somebody Loves Me, Of Thee I Sing.
LOUIS LEVY AND HIS CONCERT ORCHESTRA
The 20th Century was a time when popular songwriters were truly blessed by three wonderful inventions which transformed the way in which music became accessible to everyone, virtually on demand. The gramophone, radio and talking pictures created an almost insatiable appetite for words and music, which the entertainment moguls of the day did their best to satisfy – often earning themselves a very comfortable living in the process.
There must have been thousands of tunesmiths churning out melodies in the hope of attracting attention from a public always eager for more. As the century dawned sheet music sales were the main source of income for publishers, since all who could afford it had a piano in the home. Even by the 1940s there were so-called ‘hit parade’ charts listing the most popular tunes compiled from piano scores, although eventually disc sales became a more accurate reflection of the public’s preferences.
A few composers and lyricists emerged as being pre-eminent purveyors of their art. Most had previously directed their talents towards the musical theatre, but the lure of Hollywood eventually proved too strong for many to resist, and the movies of the 1930s witnessed a tremendous outpouring of musical talent (in Europe as well as the USA) and the finest songs of the period are now a part of our enduring musical heritage.
In previous collections in this series Guild has already saluted the talents of Richard Rodgers (GLCD 5123) and Cole Porter (GLCD 5127): now it is the turn of George Gershwin and Jerome Kern.
Encapsulating the brilliant achievements of George Gershwin in a few paragraphs is well nigh impossible, but anyone wishing to study his career in depth has a wide choice of excellent biographies by learned musicologists from which to choose. He was born Jacob Gershovitz in Brooklyn, New York on 26 September 1898 and is reported to have taught himself to play on a neighbour’s piano. At the age of thirteen a teacher introduced him to the classics, and two years later he found employment with a music publisher as a demonstrator of the latest songs. By the time he was twenty he had completed his first Broadway musical, "La La Lucille" and around the same time he had his first big hit Swanee when it was discovered by Al Jolson.
Thereafter it seemed that almost everything he wrote found favour with the public, and throughout his career he worked closely with his elder brother Ira who was one of the great lyricists of the period. It has been said that Gershwin’s strengths were a result of his willing acceptance of European musical culture which he cleverly married to the jazz idiom that swept America during his youth. Nowhere was this more apparent than in his memorable Rhapsody In Blue in 1924, although subsequent attempts to compose a sequel of similar stature somehow eluded him, despite several important works written for the concert hall. But it appears that his heart was mainly in the theatre and, when sound arrived in the late 1920s, the cinema. It was a tragedy that someone so talented should have had their life cut short by a condition that would probably have been curable today. He was diagnosed as suffering from a brain tumour, and died in Hollywood on 11 July 1937 aged only 38.
There is a famous quote which still bears repeating: the writer John O'Hara summed up the feelings of many Americans when he said "George Gershwin is dead, but I don't have to believe it if I don't want to."
Thirteen years before Gershwin’s arrival on the planet, Jerome David Kern was born in New York City on 27 January 1885. Although their careers bore certain similarities, Kern has been described as being more influenced by the European school of musical theatre which was a strong force on Broadway during his formative years. In fact he spent some while studying in Germany, and worked successfully in London where he met his wife Eva, and contributed songs to several West End shows.
Drawing room ballads were still popular during the early years of the last century. They sold in their thousands to budding musicians who would perform them in their own homes for the entertainment of sometimes long-suffering family and friends. Students have suggested that Kern managed to break a long established mould when, in 1914, with lyrics by Herbert Reynolds he created what some consider to be the first modern ballad, They Didn’t Believe Me. It has also been claimed that he helped to move the traditional Broadway musical on to a higher plane with "Show Boat", written in collaboration with Oscar Hammerstein II in 1927.
Eventually Kern was persuaded to write for Hollywood musicals, although it has been said that he was nervous when approached to write the score for the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers 1936 film "Swing Time". Then in his fifties, he wondered if he still had his finger on the musical pulse of the younger generation, but he didn’t need to worry; tunes such as Pick Yourself confirmed that he could cope very well with modern rhythms, and he continued to produce delightful film scores including the memorable "Cover Girl" with Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly in 1944.
In 1945 Kern was working on a planned revival of "Show Boat", but he never saw it performed: he died of a heart attack in New York on 11 November 1945 aged 60. At his friend's memorial service, Oscar Hammerstein remarked: "He stimulated everyone. He annoyed some. He never bored anyone at any time."
In selecting the orchestras for this tribute an attempt has been made to offer some performances which will be less familiar to music lovers. Rather than repeat versions that are readily available elsewhere, some rare 78s have been rescued from oblivion – such an example being the 1945 Decca recording of Rhapsody In Blue. It is conducted by Philip Green (1910-1982) who began his professional career at the age of eighteen playing in various orchestras. Within a year he became London’s youngest West End conductor at the Prince of Wales Theatre. His long recording career began with EMI in 1933, and he is credited with at least 150 film scores. A compulsive worker, he appeared in countless radio programmes and also composed numerous pieces of mood music for major London publishers including Chappell & Co., Francis Day & Hunter, Paxton and EMI’s Photoplay Music, where he ultimately became the only contributor to the catalogue. The pianist Ronnie Selbey played on several Ambrose 78s during 1941, and was present on some of Ted Heath’s earliest recordings for Decca. He also worked in the USA where he was Vic Damone’s pianist for a while.
Composers as prolific as Gershwin and Kern occasionally decline to publish some of their creations for various reasons, and it can be a moment of great excitement when researchers later discover some works previously unknown. Manuscripts left behind by Gershwin were naturally the subject of keen interest and in 1947 a film "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim" with Betty Grable offered a ‘new’ and posthumous score with lyrics, as always, by his brother Ira. Several of the songs became popular, the most lasting being For You, For Me, For Evermore which Percy Faith (1908-1976) delightfully arranged for his own tribute to Gershwin released by Columbia in 1957.
In the middle years of the last century the name ‘Louis Levy’ (1893-1957) would have been familiar to millions of cinemagoers around the world. He was listed as Musical Director on countless British films, and he led a team of fine composers and arrangers that helped to establish film scoring as an important craft in its own right. As head of a music department servicing both Gaumont British and Gainsborough studios, Levy was one of the most influential figures in British film music from the 1930s to the 1950s. He was more prolific than his contemporary Muir Mathieson, although it has to be said that the latter enjoyed greater critical acclaim. Levy’s success in films resulted in major record contracts for HMV and Columbia, and he became a regular broadcaster.
His famous long-running BBC radio series "Music From The Movies" began on 6th January 1936. Levy’s aim was to allow listeners at home to enjoy the same lush orchestrations they were then accustomed to hearing in the cinema. He further extended this ideal to his commercial recordings, and the rich sounds emanating from his large orchestra were considered impressive by contemporary collectors. Through the sheer necessity of having to produce so much music, Levy wisely employed several talented arrangers who helped to establish his style, among them Peter Yorke (1902-1966, who adapted the powerful Levy sound for his own successful post-war concert orchestra), and Bretton Byrd (who was Levy’s chief music editor at Gaumont British). To the constant frustration of researchers, it was rare for record companies to divulge the names of the arrangers on 78 labels, so it is a matter for conjecture as to who was responsible for scoring the Gershwin selection which concludes this CD. Certainly it was not the work of Peter Yorke; his arrangements are unique and instantly recognisable to his admirers, and in any case he was busy with his own orchestra conducting frequent broadcasts and recordings at that time. Bretton Byrd is, perhaps, an obvious choice since he was still composing and conducting for films several years after this suite was recorded. However the style bears little similarity to Levy’s 1930s discs (some of which were undoubtedly Byrd’s work) so a definite attribution must await the discovery of future evidence.