Gershwin’s 'Summertime' From Porgy and Bess Arranged for the Left Hand Alone by Nicholas McCarthy

George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1898. The Gershwin family bought their first piano in 1910 and George started lessons soon thereafter. He progressed rapidly with local teachers and then, at the age of 18, Gershwin started working as a salesman and pianist for a publishing company, which published his first work, a song called When you Want ‘em you Can’t Get ‘em. Swanne, which became a hit. He went on to write shows including La, La, Lucille and Blue Monday. The former led to a commission resulting in the famous Rhapsody in Blue.

Gershwin, though, was not content with his musical achievements and wanted to master classical techniques and establish himself as a composer of concert music. This started with his Piano Concerto in F and An American in Paris. Continuing his quest to contribute to the classical tradition, Gershwin produced the opera Porgy and Bess in 1935, his biggest achievement.

The opera Porgy and Bess is based on Dubose Heyward’s novel Porgy (1925) about a crippled street-beggar in the black community of the USA. Gershwin infused this work with unforgettable melodies, lush harmonies and a jazz, ragtime and blues feel. Despite being racially controversial at the time, it went on to be a huge success. Gershwin described Porgy and Bess as a folk opera. He commented, “The explanation is a simple one. ‘Porgy and Bess’ is a folk tale. Its people naturally would sing folk music.” Summertime is first sung by Clara, a young mother in the story, to her baby as a lullaby. Summertime appears throughout the opera.

Score Revisions

  • If you own a score from the first production of printed copies and/or a score downloaded prior to the 4th of April 2019 from mastermusicpublications.com, then there will be a missing footnote on the commentary page. The missing footnote reads:

(*) Here, and in similar places contained throughout, spread the lower notes, and land solidly on the top octave or chord.

  • Beats 3 and 4 of bar 16 and 34 contain missing natural signs. Treble Clef – Beat 3 should start with an E, and beat 4 should read G G.

 

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