Brooklyn’s Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, were among the leading Tin Pan Alley songwriters of the 1920s and 30s, with countless popular songs and six Broadway musicals to their name.  But George (1898-1937), who wrote all of the music to Ira’s lyrics, longed for a place in the classical music pantheon.  In 1924, his Rhapsody in Blue for piano and band (later orchestra) established his credentials as a serious composer.  Its use of jazz elements within classical structures became a hallmark of Gershwin’s style.  His Piano Concerto in F and An American in Paris continued in this direction, culminating in his 1935 opera Porgy and Bess.  Despite his success in the classical arena, Gershwin’s requests for lessons with other major composers were repeatedly denied.  Arnold Schoenberg, for example, told him “I would only make you a bad Schoenberg, and you’re such a good Gershwin already.”

An American in Paris came about after the success of Rhapsody in Blue had solidified Gershwin’s classical music credentials and made him a superstar.  It was inspired by Gershwin’s several trips to the bustling French capital in the 1920s.  He completed it in 1928 on a commission from conductor Walter Damrosch and the New York Philharmonic.

An Italian website featuring a full recording of the original orchestral piece.

An American in Paris program notes at the Kennedy Center.  Click around on here for a Gershwin bio and an educational video about the piece.

More program notes at musicweb-international.com.

Wikipedia article on An American in Paris.

About the composer:

Gershwin.com – the official Gershwin family website.

George Gershwin bio at balletmet.org.

Another Gershwin bio, with portraits, at naxos.com.

An excellent Japanese band plays our version of An American in Paris, arranged by Jerry Brubaker.  They unfortunately didn’t get the authentic Parisian taxi horns!