An American in Paris

Premiered at Carnegie Hall, New York, on December 13, 1928.  New York Philharmonic, Walter Damrosch (conductor).

After the mad rush of working on ROSALIE for Florenz Ziegfeld, George and Ira were determined to take some time off, so in March 1928, the Gershwins traveled to Europe. During their three months abroad, George Gershwin hoped to complete an orchestral work he had pondered since returning from a 1926 visit to Paris, when he had composed a fragment of music labeled “Very Parisienne” and entitled AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. Inspired by the sounds of taxi horns along the Paris boulevards, Gershwin and his friend Mabel Schirmer went shopping for those horns in the automobile shops along the Avenue de la Grande Armee and he returned home to incorporate them into this “rhapsodic ballet,” which had its debut at Carnegie Hall later that year. (Incidentally, Ira was content to spend much of the European trip “[seeing] the sights and [drinking] beer,” though he did keep a lengthy diary of the Gershwins’ activities.) In 1951, Gene Kelly turned AN AMERICAN IN PARIS into the climactic ballet of his Academy Award winning film of the same name.