This afternoon, he will teach a master class for area pianists and tomorrow he performs a school concert. On Friday, Gibbons will perform a free public concert, “An Evening With Gershwin,”at Harper-McNeeley Auditorium.
Gibbons will perform a free public concert, “An Evening With Gershwin,” at Harper-McNeeley Auditorium.
As a young piano student in England, Gibbons a well-established
path. He’d won some competitions and was
progressing through the standard classical repertoire. Gibbons remembers when his approach to music changed:
“One day, I just quite by accident came across this amazing recording of
Gershwin himself playing the piano. I
was just amazed by his keyboard skills.
It was something I’d ever heard before. It was jazz and it wasn’t classical, it was something completely unique. He was improvising on his songs, like
“Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.” I wanted to copy it basically; I wanted to
play the piano like that.”
Other pianists play
Gershwin’s music, especially his beloved Rhapsody
in Blue, but Gibbons is different, because he pays special attention to how
Gershwin himself performed this music.
By studying recordings and
piano rolls, he gets closer to the composer’s original style.
Gershwin was playing hadn’t been written down, because they were
improvisations. They were literally what
he played at parties in the 1920s. I had
to transcribe the music myself straight from his old recordings. That was how it all started, this was oh
about 15-20 years ago. I became totally
hooked on Gershwin after that.”
There are differences, as
“For a start, what he’s playing is much harder, to be
honest, than the published versions. He’s playing far more notes than most people play when they’re playing
Gershwin. It’s real virtuoso music; it’s
very taxing to play. It’s also more
upbeat -- he tends to play the songs slightly faster than we’re used to hearing
them these days. It just blows you away
when you hear this music, because it’s very lively.”
Gibbons also plays music by
other composers – he’s particularly interested in Chopin and Charles
Alkan, one of Chopin’s French contemporaries. Gibbons will play a piece by Alkan, as well as two of his own compositions
at this Friday's concert in Elkins.
But Gershwin is still the
star of his musical world.
“I mean, as far as I’m concerned, he’s up there as
one of the great composers. He easily
stands along side Chopin, Brahms, and other people. And sadly, he died very young. He had this serious illness, and he died
tragically young when he was really just getting going. But I think as the years go by, people will
begin to realize just what a colossal genius he was.”
You can hear the full interview with pianist Jack Gibbons and read more about the Gershwin Gala by visiting the Classically Speaking blog.