The transcriptions of six Kern songs for string quartet heard on this disc were copyrighted in January 1942, nearly four years before Kern’s death, and the published score notes that these songs were “Arranged by the composer and scored for string quartet by Charles Miller.” Kern did not do any of his own orchestrations; apparently he arranged these songs as he wanted them to appear, in purely instrumental garb, and his assistant Charles Miller then made the transcriptions for quartet. All six songs were recorded on 78s in 1949 by the Jacques Gordon String Quartet.
Some brief notes on these well-known songs: “All the Things You Are” (on a text by Oscar Hammerstein II) comes from Kern’s last stage show, Very Warm for May, which was first produced in May 1933. “The Way You Look Tonight” comes not from a stage show but from a film. Sung by Fred Astaire in the movie Swing Time (1936), it won the Academy Award as the Best Song of 1936. “Bill,” one of Kern’s most famous songs, had a curious genesis. He originally wrote it in 1917 on a text by P. G. Wodehouse for the musical Oh, Lady! Lady! A decade later, now with words by Oscar Hammerstein II, Kern used it in Show Boat, where it is sung in Act II by Julie as she contemplates the state of her marriage. The famous “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” on a text by Otto Harbach, was originally part of the 1933 operetta Roberta, but it has since been recorded countless times by an incredible variety of singers. “Once in a Blue Moon,” perhaps the least-familiar song in this collection, was composed in 1923 on a text by Anne Caldwell and is based loosely on Anton Rubinstein’s Melody in F.
Track 6: “The Way You Look Tonight” by Jerome Kern
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