Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Vernon Duke

Dr. Bob Prescribes Vernon Duke and Concert Works

Compositional Bipolarity Alec Wilder, in his classic study, American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950 (Oxford University Press, 1972), writes: “Vernon Duke was only one half of his musical self; the other half was Vladimir Dukelsky, a composer of concert works. Unfortunately for all of us, the concert, so-called ‘serious’ side of the man’s talent never, so far as I know, attempted to employ his popular side in a ‘third stream’ fashion [meaning a free mix of popular music and concert music content]. For although he was born in another culture, his absorption of American popular music writing was phenomenal. One never was aware in his songs of his not being rooted in this culture, as I was, for example, when I listened to the theater songs of Kurt Weill.” Duke/Dukelsky addressed his musical “duality” this way: “I always feel the duality in myself. My light music [meaning popular music] is decidedly extrovert, my serious music is introvert. There’s my Carnegie Hall self and my Lindy’s self [‘Lindy’s Restaurant’ was a famed Jewish deli in New York City’s Theater District on Broadway between 49th and 50th streets, named for its owner, Leo “Lindy” Lindermann], my Russian heritage and my American […]

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Music History Monday: Vladimir Aleksandrovich Dukelsky, AKA “Vernon Duke”

We mark the birth on October 10, 1903 – 119 years ago today – of the Russian-American composer of concert music Vladimir Aleksandrovich Dukelsky.  As a composer of popular music, and as a major contributor to the Great American Songbook, he is known as Vernon Duke. The Great American Songbook The Great American Songbook refers to neither a book nor a specific list of songs.  Rather, the phrase encompasses the repertoire of American popular song, written between about 1915 and 1955 that are today collectively referred to as the “standards.”  According to what should be the unimpeachable source, the “Great American Songbook Foundation”:  The “Great American Songbook” is the canon of the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century that have stood the test of time in their life and legacy. Often referred to as “American Standards”, the songs published during the Golden Age of this genre include those popular and enduring tunes from the 1920s to the 1950s that were created for Broadway Theater, musical theater, and Hollywood musical film.” Now, you didn’t have to be born in America to be a contributor to the Great American Songbook.  In fact, some […]

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