An American In Paris/Gershwin

May 19, 2012

If there was an encore to Rhapsody in Blue it was the vivacious An American in Paris which premiered four years later in 1928 by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. The tone poem was written about an American who visited Paris and his experiences and feelings. American in Paris (1951) was an Oscar winning film starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron which not only featured a sixteen minute dance routine to the score but several other Gershwin compositions. The fact that a movie was in part created around a previously written composition and wins an Oscar for the best musical score seldom happens.

Gerard Schwarz chose to perform the original orchestration which runs approximately 2-3 minutes longer. This was the first time that I heard this version and as a listener I was confused at first but also very pleased at what I heard. If you’ve heard the work before you’ll notice that the ending is somewhat different.

The work begins with an orchestral interpretation of the sounds of traffic in a busy city complete with taxi horns which are keyed slightly different from the brass. The melody is offered by the strings but the brass play a major part in this section and this is where the Seattle Symphony and engineers excel on this recording. As the orchestra builds up to a crescendo and down to melancholy with a bassoon offering the motif followed by a solo violin the tempo and orchestration changes to one of a jazzy blues style complete with saxes and a wonderful trumpet solo. As the strings takeover providing a lush arrangement of the theme the trumpet is still in the background offering the melody. Another melody is offered by the orchestra with all of the sections participating. Frantic in parts with sliding trombones, difficult tonguing from the trumpets and distinct percussion it finally returns to the beginning theme and ends in a rousing chord. This is a nice test for your speaker system as treble and bass are tested!

This is a work that brings the emotions up and down. From one minute to the next you don’t know what to expect. If you’ve not experienced it this is the finest version this reviewer has ever heard. It is coupled with another American classic The Grand Canyon Suite which will be given its own review.

Track Listing:

An American in Paris (21:44)

Gerard Schwarz conducts the Seattle Symphony. Charles Butler performs the trumpet solos.

Naxos #8.571205

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