"Catfish Row", originally titled "Suite from Porgy and Bess", is an orchestral work by George Gershwin based upon music from his famous opera. Gershwin completed the work in 1936 and it premiered at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia on January 21 of that year, with Alexander Smallens conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. Gershwin played the piano part, including the piano solo in the opening moments. This piece preserves some of the darkest and most complex music Gershwin ever wrote.
Gershwin divided his work into five sections:
- Catfish Row contains the Introduction, "Jazzbo Brown's Piano Blues", which was cut from the opera until 1976 (a motive from this music is first heard in the orchestral Introduction, which was actually composed later), and the first iteration of "Summertime" with a short coda. The coda consists of the opening bars of the "crap game" music, which immediately follows "Summertime" in the opera.
- Porgy Sings contains one of Porgy's arias: "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'" and Porgy and Bess's duet "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" bridged by a cello solo [the introduction to the latter song].
- Fugue contains the dark music from the murder of Crown in Act III scene 1.
- Hurricane features the music from the hurricane sequence (12 more measures than the R. R. Bennett Porgy and Bess "Symphonic Picture" medley).
- Good Morning, Sistuh contains the Act III Prelude from the final scene of the opera, as well as the final song, "Oh, Lawd, I'm on My Way".
Gershwin conducted all of the ensuing performances before his death in 1937, and many scholars have pronounced it unperformed and virtually forgotten until its March 1958 rediscovery by Ira Gershwin's secretary, Lawrence D. Stewart. It did, however, receive a 14 April 1942 performance by Pierre Monteux and the San Francisco Symphony. Another performance was scheduled and publicized by the Minneapolis Symphony for the very next day (15 April 1942), but couldn't be given because there was then only one set of performance materials (score & parts) for the work (Ferencz, 2011). In 1958, Ira Gershwin decided to re-title the work "Catfish Row" to distinguish it from Robert Russell Bennett's medley, though its first (1959) recording, by the Utah Symphony, nonetheless used the original title.
- Ferencz, George J. “Porgy and Bess on the Concert Stage: Gershwin's 1936 Suite (“Catfish Row”) and the 1942 Gershwin–Bennett Symphonic Picture.” Musical Quarterly 94:1-2 (Spring-Summer 2011), 93-155.
- Jablonski, Edward. Gershwin: A Biography. Garden City, New Jersey: Doubleday & Company, 1987. ISBN 0-7924-2164-7
- Gershwin, George. "Suite from Porgy and Bess" (1936 "paste-up" holograph based upon pages photo-reproduced from his manuscript score for the opera). Box 49, Folder, 5, George Gershwin Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
- Liner Notes for Telarc 2CD-80445 (Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra)