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An American in Paris

George Gershwin/trans. Jerry Brubaker

George Gershwin (1898-1937) occupies a unique place in the history of American music. A gifted writer of popular songs, musical comedies, and a folk opera, he was able to combine the styles of Tin Pan Alley and Carnegie Hall music. He made several excursions into the realm of art music. One of these pieces, An American in Paris , resulted from a European journey in 1928. Gershwin called this piece "a rhapsodic ballet". The rhapsody is programmatic in a general impressionistic sort of way, so the individual listener can read into the music such episodes as imagination pictures for him or her. A rich "blues" with a strong rhythmic undercurrent follows the opening section. American tourists, perhaps after strolling into a cafe, suddenly succumb to a spasm of homesickness. The "blues" rise to a climax followed by a coda in which the spirit of the music returns to the vivacity and bubbling exuberance of the opening part with its impressions of Paris. The use of taxi horns contributes to the picturing of the street noises and French atmosphere.

Last updated on April 18, 2015 by Palatine Concert Band