For Tennis Season

Wimbledon’s on, so here’s a video I found through a piece in the Guardian. Gershwin and Schoenberg were neighbours in California in the 1930s, and often played tennis together.

I found it a great surprise when I first learnt that Schoenberg and Gershwin had been close friends when they lived in California, but then maybe I shouldn’t have. Schoenberg, for all that his music could be austere and ascetic, was a very conservative kind of radical, and clearly appreciated Gershwin’s extraordinary melodic capacity. Gershwin even asked Schoenberg for composition lessons, but the latter refused, saying “I would only make you a bad Schoenberg, and you’re such a good Gershwin already.”

Perhaps more surprising is that Gershwin and Copland, the two most famous American composers of the early- and mid-twentieth century, had in Copland’s words “nothing to say to each other.”