Tag Archives: Porgy and Bess

Gershwin and Berg

Most fans of George Gershwin’s music would be surprised to learn of his admiration for an early atonal masterpiece: Alban Berg’s Wozzeck. He visited Berg in Vienna, and the score he owned of Wozzeck was one of his most prized possessions; he traveled to Philadelphia in 1931 to attend the work’s American premiere.

Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess is heavily indebted to Wozzeck. These debts primarily involve structural processes, understanding structure as patterns of discrete events shared by the two operas. Motives and chords play a role in the discussion, alongside musical events that range from the large—a fugue or a lullaby—to the small—a pedal, an ostinato, or some detail of counterpoint.

Beyond the presence in both operas of a lullaby, a fugue, a mock sermon, and an upright piano, the greater relevance of these parallels and others is to be found in the ways in which Gershwin situated them in comparable musical contexts.

This according to “Porgy and Bess: An American Wozzeck” by Christopher A. Reynolds (Journal of the Society for American Music I/1 [February 2007] pp. 1–28).

Today is Gershwin’s 120th birthday! Below, the atonal fugue depicting the murder of Crown from Catfish Row, his suite from the opera.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, Opera

Margaret Rosezarian Harris

Margaret R. Harris

Margaret Rosezarian Harris (1943–2000) was the first black woman to conduct the orchestras of Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and 12 other U.S. cities.

Harris played solo piano recitals in the U.S. and abroad, and served as musical director for the Broadway production of Hair. She was a composer of ballets, concertos, and an opera, and served as an American cultural specialist for a production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in Uzbekistan in 1995.

This according to “Margaret Rosezarian Harris, musician and educator, 56” by Anthony Tommasini, an obituary published by the New York times on 22 March 2000. The full text is here.

Today is Harris’s 70th birthday! Can anyone provide a better picture and/or a recording or video of her?

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