Gershwin’s An American in Paris

Notes by TŌN oboist Regina Brady

Like the title would suggest, George Gershwin began composing this piece on his trip to Paris, although he was living in the United States at the time. While writing An American in Paris, Gershwin was so inspired by the Parisian taxi horns that he handpicked several horns to bring back to the United States for the New York City premiere at Carnegie Hall. It was actually discovering and exploring the sounds of the city that made this piece come to fruition. To me the piece is so characteristically French: the variety of sounds and sonorities are lively, hazy, and excited, including those pitched taxi horns in the percussion section. It’s one of the first pieces in the canon in which jazz found its way into the middle of the classical repertoire, and it’s such a fun piece to listen to.