- An American in Paris
: "This article is about the Gershwin composition. For the 1951 musical starring Gene Kelly, see
An American in Paris (film)." "An American in Paris" is a symphonic composition by American composer George Gershwin, composed in 1928. Inspired by time Gershwin had spent in Paris, it is in the form of an extended tone poemevoking the sights and energy of the French capital in the 1920s. It is one of Gershwin's best-known compositions.
Gershwin composed the piece on commission from the
New York Philharmonic. He also did the orchestration. (He did not orchestrate his musicals.) Gershwin scored "An American in Paris" for the standard instruments of the symphony orchestraplus celesta, saxophone, and automobile horns. Gershwin brought back some Parisian taxi horns for the New York premiere of the composition which took place on December 13, 1928in Carnegie Hallwith Walter Damroschconducting the New York Philharmonic.
Gershwin collaborated on the original program notes with the critic and composer
Deems Taylor, noting that: "My purpose here is to portray the impression of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city and listens to various street noises and absorbs the French atmosphere." When the tone poem moves into the blues, "our American friend ... has succumbed to a spasm of homesickness." But, "nostalgia is not a fatal disease." The American visitor "once again is an alert spectator of Parisian life" and "the street noises and French atmosphere are triumphant."
"An American in Paris" is scored for 3
flutes (3rd doubling on piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B flat, bass clarinetin B flat, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in B flat, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, low and high tom-toms, xylophone, glockenspiel, celesta, 4 taxi horns, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, and strings.
"An American in Paris" has been frequently recorded over the years. The very first recording was made for
RCA Victorin 1929 with Nathaniel Shilkretconducting the Victor Symphony Orchestra, drawn from members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Gershwin was on hand to "supervise" the recording; however, Shilkret was reported to be in charge and eventually asked the composer to leave the recording studio. Then, a little later, Shilkret discovered there was no one to play the brief celestasolo during the slow section, so he hastily asked Gershwin if he might play the solo; Gershwin said he could and so he briefly participated in the actual recording. Later, Arthur Fiedlerand the Boston Pops Orchestrarecorded the work for RCA Victor, including one of the first stereo recordings of the music. In 1945, Arturo Toscaniniand the NBC Symphony Orchestrarecorded the music in Carnegie Hall, one of the few commercial recordings Toscanini made of music by an American composer.
In 1951, MGM released a musical comedy, "An American in Paris", featuring
Gene Kellyand Leslie Caron. Winner of numerous awards, including the 1951 Best Picture Oscar, the film was directed by Vincente Minnelli, featured many tunes of Gershwin, and concluded with an extensive, elaborate dance sequence built around Gershwin's symphonic poem (arranged for the film by Johnny Green).
A part of the symphonic composition is also featured in "
As Good as It Gets", released in 1997.
* [http://www.magazzini-sonori.it/esplora_contenuti/fondazione_toscanini/americano_parigi.aspx An American in Paris: listen to the whole symphonic poem] by Gershwin on [http://www.magazzini-sonori.it/ Magazzini-Sonori] .
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