WSO presents Gershwin & Ravel
May 11, 2024
This evening of French and French-inspired music begins with the promise of a spring morning as expressed in French composer Lili Boulanger’s masterful tone poem. Lili’s older sister Nadia was one of the most influential teachers of musical composition of the 20th century. American composer George Gershwin, a perpetual student of composition and unsure of his skills in orchestration, wanted very badly to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. She rejected him because she was afraid that rigorous classical study would ruin his jazz-influenced style. The trip wasn’t a complete failure, though. While in the French capital, Gershwin wrote An American in Paris.
Among Nadia Boulanger’s list of famous students was French composer Maurice Ravel. He and Gershwin knew each other and admired each other’s works. During his only trip to America in 1928, Ravel saw Gershwin’s new musical Funny Face and declared himself “enchanted.” When Gershwin asked to study with Ravel, Ravel hesitated, saying, “Why write bad Ravel when you write such great Gershwin?”