George Gershwin: Walking the Dog


George Gershwin’s short ditty Walking the Dog has become a staple work for clarinettists. Composed in 1937, the work was originally used for the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film score Shall We Dance. Interestingly, most of the score from the film has remained unpublished and unavailable in modern recordings. However, Walking the Dog has stood the test of time.

In the film, the music accompanies a scene of walking a dog on a luxury liner. After it was published and began gaining popularity, it was renamed Promenade in 1960. Unlike some of Gershwin’s more complex works, Walking the Dog, as the title suggests, is a lighthearted and elegant stroll.


The Music

After a glisten from the from the piano tuned percussion, a relaxed rhythm is set by the ensemble. The clarinet soloists enters with a sultry melody accompanied by pizzicato strings, muted brass and a brushed snare drum. Gerhswin’s comedic percussion interruptions adds to the charm of this sweet ditty. 

The heavily swung clarinet keeps the intervals pushing along as it plays through the instantly-recognisable melody. Other instruments begin to push into play small variations of the tune. From muted trombone slides to bitter saxophones, the piano is the one that takes over the main melody in its full glory. 

The strings play a development section which is based on the melody. The luscious melodic lines add to the relaxed atmosphere. After a reprise of the opening introduction, the clarinet returns for another run through of the melody. The work ends with the ensemble beginning to fade out before a cheeky ending pops out from the piano, clarinet and pizzicato strings. 


Final Thoughts

George Gershwin’s Walking the Dog is one of his most cheeky and laid back works that oozes attitude and class. The sultry clarinet solo is iconic and is always a crowd pleaser!


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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