Over the next few posts I will be comparing Gerswhin’s original aria from Porgy and Bess with Gil Evans’ arrangement. This post will focus on general observations and form.
General Observations – Being an opera, the original has a voice as its lead (in this case a solo soprano). Miles takes the part of the singer in the arrangement.
Time and tempo – The original piece is in 3/4 time with a solid tempo of 104 bpm. Gil reduces the tempo in his arrangement marking the score with ‘Slow 4’. Like in Wait Till You See Her, Gil has changed the time to 4/4 which along with the slower tempo, relaxes the time feel and induces more of a solemn feel to the number. Later in the arrangement there is a section in cut time and a section in 3/4.
Key – Gershwin composed Porgy and Bess in the key of E minor. Gil has transposed the piece into D minor, possibly for the solo flugelhorn to sit in a more usable part of its range.
Instrumentation – The original utilizes a fairly standard orchestra with the addition of several woodwind doublings on saxophones. There are also various percussion instruments such as sand-paper and train whistle, none of these are used in this aria however. In this piece Serena is the solo soprano and is backed by a chorus of singers.
Gil composes for alto sax, 2 alto flutes, bass flute, 3 French horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, tuba, bass and drums. Miles takes the role as soloist with the flugelhorn.
Gil essentially follows the form of the original, but changes a few things throughout for interest. Often an orchestral transition is performed by Miles and the ensemble often plays the theme where in the original it would have been sung by the soprano. Gil introduces time signature changes in the arrangement for interest and forward movement.
Theme A1 & 2
Here is a comparison of the transition at the end of the A2. Miles’ extract has been transposed to the same key.
Theme B1 & 2 – C1
End of A4 – Gil’s new theme
Theme D1 – Orchestral and Ensemble climaxes
Gershwin relies on a rising vocal line and descending chromatiscm in the orchestra to build tension.
In Evans’ arrangement the ensemble builds the tension with a rising syncopated phrase.
Evans diverts from the original by reprising his new theme rather than having a repetition of the climax by the soloist. This prevents Miles from simply repeating the melody twice at the end.
Enjoy the two versions below.