Gershwin Items At Auction in October

September 26, 2018

For anyone wishing to celebrate today’s 120th anniversary of George Gershwin’s birth with a purchase, Heritage Auctions has two fabulous items open for bids next month.

On October 12, a highly-unusual Cecil Beaton photographic portrait of the composer will be offered as part of an event, highlighting the Jeffrey M. Kaplan Collection, to be held at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York City. The gelatin silver print, purportedly taken around 1935, shows a seated Gershwin “playing” a miniature piano perched upon a sculpture of hands reaching up from the floor. The image may be the one that appeared in Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook, published in London by B. T. Batsford Ltd. in 1937.

Less than two weeks later, on October 25, as part of a Historical Manuscripts event at their headquarters in Dallas, the auction powerhouse will offer an August 31, 1933 letter from Gershwin in which he answers questions about the origins of Rhapsody in Blue. In the short missive, Gershwin states that he began writing the work on January 7, 1924, and that it took three weeks to complete. In his authoritative book Arranging Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and the Creation of an American Icon (Oxford University Press, 2014), Gershwin scholar Ryan Raul Bañagale questions the accuracy of that date, arguing that the number “7” may have been inserted into the pencil manuscript of the score sometime later to “substantiate the now-celebrated anecdote about learning of [Paul] Whiteman’s commission from the January 4 [1928] New York Tribune article.”

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