Songwriter Irving Berlin (1888-1989) remains an American cultural icon. His extraordinary genius took him on a journey extending from the birth of the pop music industry (“Tin Pan Alley”), to the stages of Broadway and into the hearts of millions through the mediums of radio, movies, and television. Over six decades, Berlin’s 1,500 songs became the virtual “soundtrack” of 20th century American life.
While Berlin’s classic middle- and late-period works are still known and loved around the world, the music that launched him as “America’s greatest songwriter” in the 1900s and 1910s is now forgotten and largely unavailable. Yet from an historical perspective, these early years are Berlin’s most fascinating and perhaps, most important: through them, Israel Isidore Beilin – an impoverished immigrant who spoke no English and never studied music – transformed himself and the face of American popular song. As “Irving Berlin,” he became an extraordinary commentator on our national life and in a breathtakingly short time was making his own considerable influences upon it.
Ranging from his explosive 1909 arrival as “The Ragtime King” into the dawn of the Jazz Age, the this album highlights Berlin’s songs for vaudeville, revue, and the Broadway stage. Of particular interest are rediscovered scores from Berlin’s first musical – the legendary Watch Your Step (1914). The selections are performed from rare historic orchestrations prepared by Irving Berlin’s own staff of arrangers and orchestrators. The recording is accompanied by a large illustrated booklet giving insights into overlooked aspects of Berlin’s career, including his curious working methods, as well as his brilliant successes as the publisher of his own creations and proprietor of a true, pioneering “entertainment empire.”
Produced by Judith Sherman, the current Grammy Award winning “Classical Producer of the Year,” THIS IS THE LIFE! is sure to delight.