Critical Edition of George Gershwin's An American in Paris Debuts with the Cincinnati and Atlanta Symphony Orchestras
Sep. 01, 2017
As part of the final concert of its European tour on September 9, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere performance of the long-awaited critical edition of George Gershwin’s An American in Paris.
Aptly performed in Paris at La Seine Musicale, the premiere was a perfect confluence of musical entities—a beloved Paris influenced work by an American composer, now premiered in Paris by an American orchestra and its French Music Director, Louis Langrée. Later this month, the new edition receives its North American premiere as part of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s season opening concert on September 21, conducted by Robert Spano.
The most notable characteristic of this new An American in Paris edition, which was prepared by Mark Clague (Director of the Gershwin Initiative at the University of Michigan), is the restoration of Gershwin’s original tunings for the iconic car horn passages (as can be heard in the above 1929 recording supervised by the composer himself). In an interview with NPR Music (below), Clague notes that the original pitches "give a much more convincing impression of random street noise in Paris" than the more consonant pitches that are heard in performances of the work today.
The rediscovery of the original taxi horn pitches is just one of many traits that make this An American in Paris sparkle with energy and sophistication. Gershwin’s own original orchestration has been restored, novel colorations are reawakened, and Gershwin’s overall conception sings more clearly with the removal of markings previously made by well-intended but heavy-handed mid-century editors. The original saxophone parts have been restored, now featuring a brilliant soprano saxophone trio that amplifies Gershwin’s early jazz-age sizzle. The percussion parts have been repaired, thinned to Gershwin’s original conception, and a lost ratchet part has been recovered. The result makes this An American in Paris even more incisive and dramatic than ever before.
For detailed information on the edition, visit umich.edu and schott-music.com. Read more about the taxi horn discovery in The New York Times and at UM’s Gershwin Initiative.
An American in Paris (1928)
Critical edition prepared by Mark Clague and The Gershwin Initiative at the University of Michigan
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