George Gershwin

Lullaby, for string quartet

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    The extent of Gershwin's early musical studies cannot now be known, though it was more encompassing than the myth of untutored genius will allow. And at all stages of his career he had what nothing can teach -- a Schubertian gift for fluent, characteristic, and immediately compelling melody. Indeed, from his earliest days he carried with him what he called his tune book in which he jotted down the abundant ideas which came to him spontaneously. Even as his career began to open out, he continued to study with, among others, Edward Kilenyi, a well-respected private teacher who imparted the rudiments of harmony and orchestration. About this time, one of the "tunes" was worked into a piano piece, and it was as an exercise for Kilenyi, around 1919, that Gershwin scored it for string quartet as his Lullaby. Private copies soon circulated among friends and it was often performed at musical gatherings, to the young Gershwin's great satisfaction.

    After a "tuning up" gesture, the slowly swinging blues melody is strutted in a skillfully varied exposition leading to a plaintively muted, hesitant moment which gives way to a rush of the warmest, most caressing lyricism before the initial blues returns to fade exquisitely.

    In 1920 Gershwin was signed by George White to provide music for his annual Scandals. The first evening of George White's Scandals of 1922 featured Blue Monday, a one-act opera by Gershwin, which was largely undone by a melodramatically ludicrous book, though the score prefigures Porgy and Bess in its sureness of touch merging opera with the jazzy, popular lingua franca of the day to yield drama and character animated by demotic tang. The easy, gently swaying blues of the Lullaby's opening became an aria for Vi, the generic jealous woman -- "Has one of you seen my Joe" -- in which she rhapsodizes her possessive affection for her smalltime gambler boyfriend. For a moment, its potent melodic appeal renders her credible.

    Lullaby was published only in 1968, while its premiere recording by the Juilliard String Quartet in 1974 began its path to enduring popularity.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Berlin Classics 0301213BC
    2018 SWR Music SWR 19505CD
    2015 Hyperion CDA 68094
    2015 ABC Classics ABC 4811776
    2014 Chandos CHAN 10801
    2012 Foghorn Classics FCL 2008
    2012 EMI Classics
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca 4782687
    2010 Centaur Records 3050
    2010 ABC Classics 4763931
    2008 EMI Classics
    2005 Sony Classical 94773
    2005 Signum UK 055
    2004 Decca B0001919
    2004 Universal Classics B0002182
    2003 Decca 472780
    2003 Decca B0000636
    2003 London/Decca / Decca 000130902
    2003 PentaTone Classics 5186021
    2003 Universal 9809662
    2001 Haenssler 93021
    2001 Telarc Distribution CD 80542
    2000 ABT Records / Advanced Brain Technologies 0107
    1999 Decca 458 157-2DH
    1999 Beloved Records / Dinemec 21031
    1999 Decca 4664242
    1999 Celestial Harmonies 199102
    1998 Telarc Distribution 80503
    1998 Telarc CD 80445
    1997 Delos / Delos/Virtual Reality DE 3216
    1997 Dynamic 195
    1995 MCA 10055
    1994 Sheffield Lab 10044
    1994 Sony Classical 64060
    1994 Celestial Harmonies 13087
    1993 Maxiplay 814
    1993 Quintessence 2004
    1992 Musicmasters 67082
    1992 Vox 5007
    1991 Naxos 990031
    1989 Critic's Choice 902
    1987 London 417 326-2DH
    Amplitude Records 2009
    MusicMasters 67082
    Newport Classic 60033
    Bayer Records 100220
    Mastersound 214
    EMI Music Distribution 68430
    Pro-Arte Records 514
    IMP Classics 6700632
    Sony Music Distribution 61989
    Smithsonian Records 107
    Menus and Music 17
    Mastersound 020
    Sheffield Lab 27
    ABC Classics 9807563
    Bvhaast / Bvhaast 8802