Stream the final track from Gershwin & Kern, Lullaby for String Quartet, by George Gershwin for a limited time via SoundCloud! Take a listen now to the full work before we take it down after the release date on the 14th!
The conclusion of this album features the one piece on it that was originally composed for string quartet. Despite his reputation as a “Broadway” composer, Gershwin was anxious to succeed as a “classical” composer. He looked into taking composition lessons from Ravel and Stravinsky, but these never came about (in fact, Gershwin probably had more influence on Ravel than the French composer did on him). Many of Gershwin’s finest works are in classical forms, including the Piano Concerto in F, the three Preludes for Piano, and the tone poem An American in Paris; Porgy and Bess, first produced off-Broadway, is now given in opera houses.
Gershwin was only about 21 when he composed the charming Lullaby for String Quartet in 1919 or 1920, perhaps as an exercise in writing for string quartet. It was played privately but never published, and the first public performance of the Lullaby by a string quartet was finally given over thirty years after its composer’s death, on October 29, 1967, by the Juilliard String Quartet. The Lullaby is built on its lazily syncopated main theme, heard almost immediately in muted upper strings. Gershwin then puts this theme through a series of cleverly varied repetitions that make use of harmonics, unmuted strings, and individual solos, and the music makes its way to the perfectly judged pizzicato strokes that bring the Lullaby to its relaxed conclusion.