• Summertime

  • George Gershwin's Life in Music
  • By: Richard Crawford
  • Narrated by: David Colacci
  • Length: 19 hrs and 5 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Summertime

By: Richard Crawford
Narrated by: David Colacci
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Publisher's Summary

New York City native and gifted pianist George Gershwin blossomed as an accompanist before his talent as a songwriter opened the way to Broadway, where he fashioned his own brand of American music. He composed a long run of musical comedies, many with his brother Ira as lyricist, but his aspirations reached beyond commercial success.  

A lifetime learner, Gershwin was able to appeal to listeners on both sides of the purported popular-classical divide. In 1924 - when he was just 25 - he bridged that gap with his first instrumental composition, Rhapsody in Blue, an instant classic.  

From that time forward his work as a composer, pianist, and citizen of the Jazz Age made him in some circles a leader on America's musical scene. In the late 1920s Gershwin extended the range of the shows he scored to include the United Kingdom. Moreover, having polished his skills as an orchestrator, he pushed boundaries again in 1935 with the groundbreaking folk opera Porgy and Bess - his magnum opus.  

Acclaimed music historian Richard Crawford traces the arc of Gershwin's remarkable life, seamlessly blending colorful anecdotes with a discussion of Gershwin's unforgettable oeuvre.

©2019 Richard Crawford (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Read this first

I was intrigued by the idea of a biography of Geshwin, so I downloaded this book.

In the introduction, the author explains he's musicology professor. I can see that in this book. Vast passages describe the music in all sorts of detail about structure, etc. I'm not that knowledgeable about music, so this was lost on me.

This all makes sense as what could be an academic text, but the book isn't so described.

It would have been so much better if in the descriptions of the music were accompanied by selections of that which is being discussed. That would have made this book excellent for someone like me.

The narrator is excellent as always. He, along with the subject matter, is why I bought this book.

If you're into music enough to appreciate all the discussions then this would be a 5 star listen. If not, a biography that focused more on the composer's life and times would be preferable.

4 people found this helpful

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Wonderful , but poinient bio of a musical genius!!

Sad and truthful -story of the young genius .Gershwin's short tragic life. What a loss for music!!

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Not what I was hoping for.

This book was a disappointment. I was hoping for a bio on George Gershwin that explicated the person and placed him in the context of his times. That book would relate to the reader his personality and his relationships with others around him. It would talk about Gershwin’s artistic work and how his art innovated on others’ before him and how it affected what came after him. It would talk about how he was perceived by the general public compared to how the general public was perceiving other artists at the time and how the general public was accepting/reacting to the same and other musical styles. It would leave the reader feeling like they they had a good sense of what it was like to know George Gershwin if you had lived in his times and followed his career.

The reader gets a little bit of that, and can kinda intuit some of that. But, this book leaves the reader feeling more like they would had they sat in a library and read old newspaper and magazine articles about Gershwin and his musicals and performances.

The author spends way way too much time detailing the plot of every. single. musical Gershwin wrote - even the ones that were commercial flops. These are drawn out mechanical descriptions of the characters and the scenes and storylines of every one. The detail is too much to follow probably because this just isn’t what I, as the reader, was looking for. I wanted to know about Gershwin, not read cliff notes on all his plays and musicals.

When the author does talk about his life, we get some feel for who he was, but a lot of what we get is detail on contracts, where he went when, and performance dates (including one inexcusable section where the author just lists ad nauseum something like 30-40 dates and venues on some tour Gershwin did). Again, mechanical recapitulations of objective facts that don’t really give the reader a feel for the person who was George Gershwin.

This book may be what others are looking for, especially if they are interested in brief (somewhat) summaries of all his different musicals, musical pieces, and Porgy and Bess (an hour-plus walk-thru scene by scene - whew!). That just isn’t what I was hoping for.

Finally, the narrator is competent, but has a somewhat droning, slow-talking sorta 1970s newscaster throwback style that does not help liven the authors’ somewhat lifeless content.

I’ve never given a book fewer than 4 stars. I was just disappointed with this book and it didn’t get better as the book went on.