Tragically, other projected works including a string quartet, a symphony, a ballet score, an additional opera, and songs for a Kaufman-Hart musical never came to fruition. On 11 th July George Gershwin died at the age of 38 from a brain tumour. The melancholic blues theme announced by the solo trumpet, suggesting a sudden bout of homesickness on the part of the protagonist, is one of the finest Gershwin wrote.
The composer, fascinated by the small Cuban dance orchestras with their novel rhythms and unusual percussion instruments such as guiros, maracas, claves and bongos, was inspired to write the Cuban Overture. The opera, a commercial and critical failure at the time, is now recognised as one of the greatest achievements of twentieth-century American music.
Close the window. He planned to use them in his new work, in order to invoke the sounds of Paris in a literal way. After three months, Gershwin began his journey back to New York—loaded down with mementos of Paris, gifts, the collected piano works of Debussy, two versions of An American in Paris neither finished , and cartons containing taxi horns. He had by this time received a commitment from conductor Walter Damrosch to premiere An American in Paris with the New York Philharmonic a few months hence.
He completed the piano sketch soon after returning home, and the orchestration a few weeks later. The premiere followed at the end of , with four taxi horns among the percussion instruments. Although the work was intended as pure concert music, its Charleston-like rhythms, jazz-inspired syncopations, blues-like trumpet melody complete with saxophone accompaniment , and occasional Gallicisms made it a natural vehicle for the dance.
For these performances, the CSO will be performing an unabridged version of the critical edition of An American in Paris prepared by the Gershwin Initiative at the University of Michigan in The most significant update to this edition is the tuning of the taxi horns. This edition uses A-flat, B-flat, high D and low A, as indicated in a recording supervised by Gershwin himself.
After completing the sketch but before orchestrating An American in Paris, Gershwin described the work in an interview:. The opening part will be developed in typical French style, in the manner of Debussy and [the group of composers known as] the Six, though the tunes are all original. My purpose here is to portray the impressions of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city, listens to the various street noises, and absorbs the French atmosphere. The harmony here is both more intense and simple than in the preceding pages. At the conclusion, the street noises and French atmosphere are triumphant.
Recognition took the form of commissions such as that from a wealthy businessman for the Violin Concerto , performances by The Cleveland Orchestra and by Arturo Toscanini and prizes. The Bearns Prize, the Prix de Rome and the Pulitzer Traveling Scholarship enabled Barber to have several extended residencies in Europe, where he studied and composed intensively.
Musique du film Un Américain à Paris - AlloCiné
During one of these periods abroad Barber began the Violin Concerto. It was , and he was spending the summer in the village of Sils-Maria in Switzerland, far from the mounting threat of world war.
Progress was slow, and thus the composer took his unfinished manuscript with him when he moved to Paris in the fall. No sooner had he arrived in the French capital, however, than all Americans were warned to leave Europe, as German troops were invading Poland. Barber sailed for New York with the concerto still unfinished. Nonetheless, for a freelance composer such as Barber was in , commissions are an important source of income.
Terms vary, but usually the composer receives a fee and the patron gets first performance rights and usually the dedication, plus of course the satisfaction of knowing that he or she was directly responsible for the creation and performance of what is hoped will be a major work.
Barber entered into a contract for the violin concerto in good faith. The Philadelphia merchant, on the other hand, did not. He acted quite unprofessionally. Neither deserves the safety of anonymity. In his bio-bibliography of the composer, musicologist Don A. Hennessee names the culprits: Samuel Fels and Iso Briselli.
What happened was this: Barber showed violinist Briselli the first two movements when they were finished. The soloist was disappointed because they were not sufficiently virtuosic.
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Barber explained that he was reserving the bravura for the finale. When that movement was complete, Briselli pronounced it unplayable. The sponsor, Fels, demanded that the composer return the commissioning fee. Barber replied that he had already spent the money while he was living in Europe without a steady income. Barber then asked another violinist—Herbert Baumel—to play the finale in the presence of Briselli, Fels and several witnesses.
Baumel did so after a few hours of practice, readily demonstrating that the work had sufficient virtuosity and was quite within the realm of possibility. Barber and Fels worked out a compromise—the composer returned half of the fee and Briselli relinquished all claims on the right of first performance.
Barber had been treated shabbily. He had worked diligently on the concerto for well over a year, and he had exactly upheld his side of the bargain. When someone commissions a work, he or she chooses a composer whose musical judgment he or she trusts.
There is then an implied obligation to accept the work the composer writes as long as it fulfills any mutually agreed upon stipulations. By the time Barber wrote his later concertos for flute, oboe and trumpet in , for cello in and for piano in , he was a renowned composer who no longer had to be subjected to the whims of ignorant performers and devious patrons.
The concerto was premiered by still another violinist, Albert Spalding. When people heard the work, they were struck by the stylistic differences between the first two and the last movements.
An American In Paris (Blues Theme) - Violin 1 Sheet Music by George Gershwin
It then seemed that Barber was turning away from his conservative tonal style toward a more experimental idiom, but in retrospect it appears more that he was expanding his range of expression to include the aggressive alongside the gentle. He never stopped writing lyrical music. It was tempting to understand the dissonances in the third movement as a response to the war. The first movement is quite traditional. It is unabashedly tonal and thoroughly lyrical. It is cast in a sonata form based on two themes—a long line introduced at the very beginning by the solo instrument and a perky figure first heard in the clarinet.
Notice the use of the piano, a rare instrument in the orchestra of a violin concerto. It plays the very first chord and is then silent until the second theme.
The biting, non-blending sound of the piano cuts through the orchestra so that we always know whether or not it is playing; it is thus a major source of contrast in the concerto. The lyricism of the first movement expands in the second, which is based on a beautifully arching long line. The finale, by contrast, is a fast moto perpetuo.
For almost the entire movement someone—usually the soloist—plays an unending chain of triplets. Considerable drive and energy are built up in this way. The few places where the triplet obsession is broken are refreshing, if not surprising—the second statement of the second theme in flute and bassoon, accompanied by snare drum and low piano , the accelerando of the triplets to sixteenth notes in the coda, and the dramatic fermata where, just before the end, the music seems to pause momentarily for a final gasp of breath.
It was only with great difficulty that he returned to writing music. Painstakingly he completed his one compositional effort of the war years, Le Tombeau de Couperin , which had occupied him from to Then for two years he composed nothing substantial.