Classical Cafe:

KSO This Week: 'An American in Paris'

Of special note on this week's Knoxville Symphony Orchestra concerts of American composers is a world premiere by the KSO's music director and principal conductor Lucas Richman. The work, titled Concerto for Piano and Orchestra: In Truth, will feature guest pianist Jeffrey Biegel. Premieres of new music always carry a special, ineffable excitement--I can only suggest that you attend and hear the piece for yourself.

Pianist Jeffrey Biegel

Also on the concert are works by Ferde Grofé (Mississippi Suite) and George Gershwin (An American in Paris). The two share an interesting connection--Grofé was a pianist and arranger for Paul Whiteman (Paul Whiteman Orchestra) and actually orchestrated Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which was premiered by the orchestra in 1924. At that time, Gershwin was just developing his own orchestration skills, but the work obviously solidified Gershwin's reputation as a serious composer.

Grofé later stated--
"Gershwin proved in his own achievements what Paul Whiteman and I had always believed when we were first associated with his band: that the better elements of jazz could be incorporated into art music and be the basis of a series of symphonic creations typically expressive of our nation." 

An American in Paris was commissioned by the Philharmonic-Symphony Society and Walter Damrosch for a 1928 premiere. If you are only acquainted with the work through the Vincente Minnelli film with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, you owe it to yourself to hear this marvelous work in a live performance. To understand the tonal variety and amusing, impressionistic textures (or is that expressionistic?) found in this work, you need only check out the instrumentation: strings, flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 saxophones, 2 bassoons, contra-bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, tympani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, rattle, triangle, 2 tom-toms, 4 automobile horns, xylophone, wire brush, wood block, glockenspiel, and celeste.
Thursday and Friday, October 17 and 18, 7:30 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre
Tickets: Telephone 865-291-3310 or

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About This Blog

Alan Sherrod serves up a big plate of nourishing commentary on the Knoxville classical music and fine arts scene.