This came to mind as I was looking over a season that includes Mozart and Casablanca, Brahms and Elvis Presley, Carmina burana and the Who.
Forgive me if I’ve told this one before. In 1928 George Gershwin toured Europe and visited with the leading composers of the day. In Vienna he visited the home of Alban Berg, whom Gershwin revered. Berg, being a more than proper Viennese host, had a string quartet play his Lyric Suite for Gershwin.
After the recital, Gershwin approached the piano, but caught a touch of stage fright. How was this Tin Pan Alley song plugger worthy of the brilliance of Berg, of Vienna?
Berg said to him, “Mr. Gershwin, music is music.”
In 1936, Gershwin was staying at the Coronado Hotel in St. Louis, in town for a concert with the St. Louis Symphony that would include his performance of his Concerto in F at the keyboard. Members of the local press interviewed him in his suite. Gershwin was the composer of Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris, “I Got Rhythm,” “Oh, Lady Be Good,” “Fascinating Rhythm” and Porgy and Bess. “I’m trying mainly to be American in the feeling of my music,” he told them.
The reporters found it a novelty that he spoke of Bach and W.C. Handy in the same breath.