George Gershwin composed An American in Paris in March 1928. Consisting of three, closely connected parts, the orchestral work seeks “to portray the impression of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city and listens to various street noises and absorbs the French atmosphere.” This description best fits the first part, which is followed by a blues-style second part in which “our American friend […] has succumbed to a spasm of homesickness”. Yet, as Gershwin notes, “nostalgia is not a fatal disease”, and in the third part the American visitor “once again is an alert spectator of Parisian life”.
An American in Paris received its world première in New York on 13 December 1928. Asked whether it would become part of the classical repertoire, the composer said, “It’s not a Beethoven Symphony, you know […] It’s a humorous piece, nothing solemn about it. It’s not intended to draw tears. If it pleases symphony audiences as a light, jolly piece, a series of impressions musically expressed, it succeeds.”