Gershwin – Lullaby for Strings

by Max Derrickson

George Gershwin   (b Brooklyn, NY, September 26, 1898; Hollywood, CA, July 11, 1937)

Lullaby for Strings

George Gershwin’s life is one of those great and inspirational American stories:  the son of a poor immigrant family in Brooklyn who worked his way up from nowhere to becoming one of the most famous musicians in the world and his music hailed as representing Americaitself.  Even in his fame, however, Gershwin made studying music a lifelong pursuit.  Thus was born his wonderful Lullaby for Strings in 1919 which was composed as an assignment in harmony and counterpoint while studying with Edward Kilenyi, Sr.  Aside from Lullaby’s gentle hues, its sweet and lazy habanera/swing-like rhythms, and its two infectious and utterly unpretentious themes, one can hear a real glow in this work that emerges from the almost hidden inner voices (the harmonies and counterpoint) running underneath the melodies.  Although Gershwin adopted Lullaby into a song in a new show Blue Monday (which flopped), the famous jazz band leader Paul Whiteman heard Gershwin’s talent, and commissioned him to write a new piece, which turned out to be Rhapsody in Blue.