Cincinnati Symphony to perform world premiere of new critical edition of “An American in Paris” in Paris

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) will present the world premiere of the new critical edition of An American in Paris duing its upcoming European tour (August 25–September 9, 2017). The performances will take place at the new Seine Musicale, and be led by CSO Music Director Louis Langrée.

The concert, which closes out the tour, will be a unique performance of Gershwin’s beloved composition—a work by an American composer, inspired by Paris, performed in Paris by an American orchestra led by a French conductor.

The new critical edition was prepared by SMTD musicology professor Mark Clague, Ph.D., director of U-M’s Gershwin Initiative. It will be the first official premiere of any publication in the new George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition. The University of Michigan’s research project is part of an educational partnership with the Gershwin families to create first-ever scholarly editions of the Gershwin brothers’ creative work while introducing new generations of students to their cultural achievements.

George Gershwin, James Rosenberg (CSO percussionist), and tenor Richard Crooks, Feb. 28, 1929 (Photo courtesy of the Ira & Lenore Gershwin Trusts)

The most significant update to the new edition of An American in Paris is the tuning of the taxi horns, explored in an SMTD video last year. The Gershwin Critical Edition proposes that the letters (A, B, C, D) on Gershwin’s original handwritten score refer to labels of the horns themselves, not their actual pitches. This edition uses A-flat, B-flat, high D and low A, as heard in a 1929 recording supervised by Gershwin himself. Gershwin’s original orchestration has been fully restored, featuring its evocation of a 1920’s jazz reed section in which three musicians perform on eight different saxophones, including a unique soprano saxophone trio. Gershwin’s original An American in Paris is more transparent and angular, more evocative of twentieth-century modernism and Roaring Twenties jazz.

Louis Langrée and the musicians of the CSO have already made substantive contributions to the edition through recent test performances. The CSO’s own connection to the piece goes back to March 1929 when Gershwin himself was present for a performance by the Orchestra in Cincinnati under the baton of Fritz Reiner.

“The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has the spirit of Gershwin in its musical DNA,” says Clague, “the musicians’ insights into the work have been invaluable to the creation of the new edition, and I expect the world premiere of this new An American in Paris to be stunning in its brilliance, verve, and expression.”

Read the full CSO press release about the 2017 Europan tour.