Identify important achievements made by the Gershwin Brothers in the composition of musicals

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Identify important achievements made by the Gershwin brothers in the composition of musicals.

The Gershwin brothers composed over 13 musicals within the space of 11 years including the 1935 folk-opera/musical, ‘Porgy and Bess’ and ‘Girl, Crazy’ in 1930. Within this time period, their musical style developed from lightweight, comedies to more structurally sophisticated, and integrated works such as one of their later musicals, ‘Porgy and Bess’.

The Gershwin brother’s musicals contained high levels of integration, in which the music and lyrics reveal character and progress the plot. They achieved this through use of leitmotif which is predominant in ‘Porgy and Bess’. Each main character in this folk opera/musical has their own musical theme which represents them, excluding Bess; this is because her music changes depending on which man she is with thus showing her fickle personality. However, at the end of the musical, she sings ‘Summertime’, the chorus’ anthem to show that she has now been accepted into the community of Catfish Row and during her duet with Porgy, ‘Bess, You is my Woman Now’, she sings a portion of Porgy’s earlier solo, ‘When Gawd Made a Cripple’ to show that she is the answer to his loneliness.

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Porgy’ leitmotif containing an upward grace note symbolising his stumbling and clumsiness as he is a cripple also features chromatic chords, reminiscent of his small steps, and a perfect fifth followed by a minor third that shows the solidity and folk-like nature he shares with Catfish Row. Crown’s leitmotif is strong and energetic with continuous syncopation, and is confined within a minor third; keeping with his dominant presence, when Crown appears, or is alluded to, all other music is subordinate.

Integration also features in, ‘Girl, Crazy’ in the number ‘Bidin’ My Time’. This male quartet sings downward glissando on ...

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