An American in Paris

The symphonic poem “AN AMERICAN IN PARISwas created in 1928, during Gershwin’s stay in Paris. „My purpose here is to portray the impressions of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city, listens to the various street noises, and absorbs the French atmosphere“ – said the composer to Musical America Magazine

At the heart of the work is a melodic fragment called “Very Parisienne “,  which the composer wrote in 1926 on his first visit to Paris as a gift to his friends Robert and Mabel Schirmer, whom he stayed with. Gershwin then wanted to study with Maurice Ravel, but he refused. “Why be a second-rate Ravel when you can be a first-rate Gershwin? ” Two years later, Nadia Boulanger’s answer is almost the same: “What could I give you that you have not already got? ” Nevertheless, Gershwin retained his fascination with Paris, which at the time was a centre of attraction for artists from all over the world, such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway , Pablo Picasso and many other famous names. And in his new work he strives to recreate in the individual sections the typically French music, the dynamics of life, even car horns on the streets of the artistic metropolis. The author himself described the poem as “rhapsodic ballet” because it was written in free form, it also has a more modern musical language than his previous opuses.

The premiere performance on 13 December 1928 at Carnegie Hall in New York by the New York Symphony Orchestra conducted by Walter Damrosch was a great success and drew rave reviews from Maurice Ravel.

Later, in 1951, the poem inspired director Vincent Minnelli to create the musical film of the same name, which won eight Academy Awards, one for Gershwin’s music. The lyrics are by Ira Gershwin and choreography – by Jean Kelly.

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