Gershwin returned to Paris in March 1928 to write 'An American in Paris'. Based on a melodic idea written during his first visit in 1926, called 'Very Parisienne', the music adheres closely to a programme that Gershwin himself spelled out. The first section introduces two “strolling” themes and portrays “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”. This opening famously makes use of taxi horns – Gershwin actually brought back some Parisian taxi horns for the premiere of the work in New York in December 1928.
Suddenly a slower section ushers in the American Blues, featuring a lyrical trumpet solo played with a “felt crown” hung over the bell: “our American friend has succumbed to a spasm of homesickness”. This American longing continues with a more energetic twelve-bar blues, the jazz influence felt in the swung quavers and syncopated rhythms.
His mood restored, the American “once again is an alert spectator of Parisian life”. The opening themes return, and “the street noises and French atmosphere are triumphant”.
Finally the slow “homesick” blues theme and the street noises combine in a celebratory Grandioso – the American is finally at home in Paris. (Notes: Matthew Knight)
Septura: Simon Cox, Huw Morgan, Alan Thomas (trumpets), Matthew Knight, Matthew Gee, Dan West (trombones), Pete Smith (tuba)
Recorded 30 April 2019, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington by RNZ Concert
Sound engineer: Graham Kennedy