Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Ferencz, George J. “Porgy and Bess on the Concert Stage: Gershwin’s 1936 Suite (Catfish Row) and the 1942 Gershwin-Bennett Symphonic Picture.” The Musical Quarterly 94 (Spring 2011): 93-155.

George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess exists as a concert piece in several arrangements, but the most popular is Robert Russell Bennett’s Symphonic Picture, composed under the direction of Fritz Reiner and shaped by his involvement in the project. Gershwin’s own five-movement Suite from Porgy and Bess was prepared and performed between 1936 and 1937 to promote upcoming productions of the opera. However, Gershwin’s Suite was virtually unknown between in 1937 and 1959, when it was “rediscovered” and renamed Catfish Row. Symphonic Picture on the other hand was a project developed by Reiner, who selected the excerpts and order of the medley and engaged Bennett, a work-for-hire arranger and long-time Gershwin associate, to orchestrate Picture in 1942. In its orchestration, Picture presents an arrangement more agreeable to symphonic standards, with Bennett removing the instrumental doubling associated with commercial orchestration. Bennett also adds significantly more transition material between sections than Gershwin’s Suite contains. Furthermore, Picture was arranged with recording specifically in mind; Reiner’s outline specified a duration of twenty-four minutes to fit on three twelve-inch 78-rpm discs. The popularity of Picture over the Suite is also apparent in the performance, recording, and reception histories of each piece.

Works: George Gershwin: Suite from Porgy and Bess / Catfish Row (104-10); Robert Russell Bennett (arranger): Symphonic Picture (104-7, 110-21)

Sources: George Gershwin: Porgy and Bess (104-21)

Index Classifications: 1900s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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