News release from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra:
The Fort Wayne Philharmonic Presents “An Evening with George Gershwin”
Featuring Pianist Jodie DeSalvo
(January 22, 2016) – The Fort Wayne Philharmonic presents an entire concert featuring the music of one of Americas legendary composers in “An Evening with George Gershwin” on Saturday, February 20, 7:30 p.m., at the Embassy Theatre. The sixth concert in the Madge Rothschild Foundation Masterworks series will be conducted by Chia-Â?Hsuan Lin, with a local favorite, guest pianist Jodie DeSalvo.
Musical selections for the concert will include some of Gershwin’s most popular symphonic works: Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture, Rhapsody in Blue, Cuban Overture and An American in Paris. “George Gershwin was a true American original. Born of the immigrant experience, his music, like his life, straddled influences from Europe and the Americas. And, while he wrote primarily for the Broadway musical theatre, his orchestral and piano compositions blended the forms of classical music with the stylistic nuances and techniques of popular music and jazz. And on top of that, there’s incredible magic in Gershwin’s music. With the wonderful Jodie DeSalvo, we’re really looking forward to jazzing it up,” said Chia-Â?Hsuan Lin.
Gershwin’s iconic path began when he dropped out of school at the age of 15 to play professionally in the famous music-Â?publishing sector of New York City’s Tin Pan Alley. Within just a few short years, he enjoyed major success when his song “Swanee” became a national hit. Many others followed in quick succession and he soon became one of the most sought after musical figures in America. In 1924, following an internal calling to write more “serious “music, Gershwin composed one of the great masterpieces of the American repertoire, his Rhapsody in Blue. This ground breaking, revolutionary work ushered in a new era where classical and popular styles combined to create a uniquely American musical idiom.
Opening this concert is a medley of Gershwin’s best-Â?known selections from his “American folk opera” Porgy and Bess. Although not well received during his lifetime, Porgy and Bess has become Gershwin’s magnum opus. Arranged by the composer’s good friend, Robert Russell Bennett, “Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture” deftly presents the most popular selections from the opera.
Next on the program is the famed Rhapsody in Blue performed by pianist Jodie DeSalvo. Premiered in 1924 as the marquee piece at a concert titled, “An Experiment in Modern Music,” Rhapsody in Blue was to focus on the jazz style gaining popularity at the time. Audiences ever since have been captivated, from the famous opening clarinet glissando to its grand euphoric finale.
Conceived while riding on a train, the composer was quoted by biographer Isaac Goldberg as saying, “It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-Â?ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise… And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end…I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance.”
Jodie DeSalvo, a former pianist of The Phil, has garnered national and international attention for her interpretations of keyboard literature, both classical and jazz. A medal recipient of the Artist International Competition in 1998, DeSalvo made her Carnegie Hall debut to critical acclaim with an encore performance two years later at Lincoln Center. A graduate of the Hartt and Manhattan Schools of Music, she is also a past recipient of the Artist Fellowship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Classical music critic Peg Goldberg Longstreth of the Naples Daily News said of DeSalvo’s performance of Gershwin’s work, “She was fabulous, her hair flying, her facile fingers a blur. She owned that piano, giving one of the most memorable performances of Rhapsody in Blue I have ever witnessed.”
After intermission the Latin infused Cuban Overture will be performed. This popular work is the result of a much-Â? needed vacation in Havana that Gershwin described as “two hysterical weeks in Cuba, where no sleep was had.”
The entire overture exudes the rhythmic pulse of the Caribbean, employing Cuban native percussion to create an expansive range of interesting instrumental color. Although heavily influenced by a popular Cuban song of the day, Gershwin composed Cuban Overture as a thrilling piece with as much sophistication and complexity as anything else in the orchestral repertoire.
This exhilarating program concludes with the much-Â?loved symphonic poem An American in Paris. Also inspired by a trip abroad, Gershwin wanted to capture the clamor and commotion of the Parisian streets in a concert piece not revolving around a piano. He even went so far as to shop for Parisian taxi-Â?horns to take back home with him.
In an interview for a 1928 edition of Musical America, Gershwin described the work by saying:
“The opening gay section is followed by a rich blues with a strong rhythmic undercurrent. Our American…perhaps after strolling into a cafÃ© and having a couple of drinks, has succumbed to a spasm of homesickness. The harmony here is both more intense and simpler than in the preceding pages. This blues rises to a climax, followed by a coda in which the spirit of the music returns to the vivacity and bubbling exuberance of the opening part with its impression of Paris. Apparently the homesick American, having left the cafÃ© and reached the open air, has disowned his spell of the blues and once again is an alert spectator of Parisian life. At the conclusion, the street noises and French atmosphere are triumphant.”
All ticket holders are invited to enhance their concert experience with Musically Speaking, the pre-concert
lecture series presented at 6:30 p.m. before every Masterworks performance. Lectures are free and held in the Gallery of the Grand Wayne Center.
Tickets for “An Evening with George Gershwin” start at just $22 and are conveniently available for
purchase online at fwphil.org. Purchases can also be made in person at The Phil Box Office, located at 4901 Fuller Drive or over the phone by calling 260-Â?481-Â?0777. The Phil Box Office is open Monday through Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or Saturday
(Masterworks and Pops concert days only) from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. Tickets are also available for purchase at the Embassy Theatre during normal operating hours and two hours prior to each concert. Full program and series information are available at fwphil.org.
About the Fort Wayne Philharmonic
Now performing its 72nd season, The Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s mission is to inspire and foster a 0lifelong love of classical music through performance and education. The Phil is led by Music Director Andrew Constantine and is a member of the League of American Orchestras, a funded member of Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne, and the Indiana Arts Commission. For additional information visit fwphil.org.