When do you accept that summer is over?
In July a friend announced the end of summer at the conclusion of Wimbledon, which I thought was a tad previous. A close second was another who asserted the same on the occasion of the first night of the Proms, the very date which has, for me, always given summer’s lease an extension.
The last Bank Holiday weekend, now upon us? The 1st September? The final Test Match? The – it always seems – early return of Match of the Day (while cricket is still on our screens)? The last tennis Grand Slam tournament? I know that I cling to the season for as long as I can, indulging fully in anything I can associate with summer in my determination to refuse its passing.
As I do today in my choice of music. The American composer George Gershwin lived just 38 years (1898-1937), but in that brief period made a remarkable impact on both classical music and the future of popular music – in fact, I wonder whether the development of modern popular music could ever have unfolded without Gershwin. He was a prolific songwriter and gifted tunesmith, some would say America’s answer to Schubert.
Unlike Schubert, he was a good-looking man and in much demand from the ladies. Little wonder he didn’t see the point in marrying.
Nowadays his reputation tends to be limited to being the composer of Rhapsody in Blue, but that is to miss out on a huge and highly original output. His real legacy is that he achieved the successful crossover between the Broadway musical and opera in the most popular American opera of all, Porgy and Bess. 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, was hardly the perfect year for its first performance, and it was a commercial disaster.
Now, largely thanks to a 1986 production at Glyndebourne, it is firmly established in the operatic repertoire. It is riddled with unforgettable melodies, and in the spirit of today’s post, give yourself a few minutes to bask in Summertime.
The tune will be known to almost everyone, but you won’t hear it sung better than by the American soprano Leontyne Price (born 1927). Don’t be put off by the slightly brash introduction, wait for her voice and you will be hooked: she had a wonderful, almost raunchy, voice which leant itself as comfortably to Verdi, as it does to Puccini or Mozart. This smokey rendition of over 50 years ago has few, if any equals.
In a couple of weeks the Royal Albert Hall will be host to the Last Night of the Proms. The place will be heaving with enthusiasts from nations all around the globe, frantically waving all manner of flags. Whether I’m listening or not, I will be mentally hoisting a white flag in reluctant acknowledgement that, for me, this is the occasion which brings down the curtain on summer 2017.
Until then, I’m holding on with the help of Price. I may even play this in December to remind me that summer will return.
Click image –