104 missing bars of Gershwin

104 missing bars of Gershwin


norman lebrecht

August 31, 2019

From the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra:

There are two versions of An American in Paris on this release: the new critical edition of this iconic work, and an unabridged version which includes four passages totaling 104 that Gershwin eventually crossed out. Neither has ever been recorded. The CSO received special permission from the Gershwin estate to record the unabridged edition.

Another notable difference in this new critical edition lies in the taxi horn pitches. The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Archive uncovered a photo of Gershwin in Cincinnati from March of 1929 with CSO percussionist James Rosenberg. They are holding the four taxi horns Gershwin brought back from Paris.

The recording, titled Transatlantic, is out in a fortnight.


  • barry guerrero says:

    Much ado about nothing. Still, it’ll be interesting to hear.

  • Adam Stern says:

    From the Wikipedia article on “An American in Paris”:

    >> The Seattle Symphony also recorded a version in 1990 of Gershwin’s original score, before he made numerous edits resulting in the score as we hear it today.

  • Dan P says:

    Were these measures deleted without Gershwin’s approval?

    If a composer drafts a work and decides that certain passages don’t work or go off on a tangent and need to be deleted, are those measures actually “missing?” Does that make measures added at a late stage of composition “bonus” measures, like the interludes in Stavinsky’s Movements for Piano and Orchestra that were added after the composition of the rest? To call these measures “missing” assumes that they suffered some kind of accident on the way to the engraver’s and never showed up. Is that they case?

    • Louis Langrée says:

      The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra says in its press release that Gershwin eventually crossed out these 104 measures, not that they were missing. We received special permission from the Gershwin Estate to record both versions (with and without those 104 bars).
      We just released the world premiere recording of “An American in Paris” New Critical Edition, edited by musicologist and University of Michigan professor Mark Clague.

      Before reading this new Urtext edition, I had no idea how much Frank Campbell-Watson’s familiar arrangement of “An American in Paris” – created five years after George Gershwin’s death – had distorted the original masterpiece. For instance, Campbell-Watson rearranged and simplified the saxophones parts, having three saxophonists playing one instrument each, instead of Gershwin’s original three saxophonists playing a total of eight instruments, including a trio of soprano saxophones (!). Campbell-Watson also added dozens of slurs, transforming the original crisp articulations into a more lush texture. He softened Gershwin’s intended dissonances in sections as if there were misprints in the original score. He added percussion parts and timpani rolls in other places, giving a completely different sound and style to the piece.
      Gershwin brought his own set of taxi horns to Cincinnati in 1929, when music director Fritz Reiner conducted that piece. The comparison between the pictures taken on this occasion and the 1929 Shilkret recording shows that the pitches we generally hear are also incorrects.
      This new Critical Edition restores Gershwin’s original orchestration, articulations, dynamics, style and spirit.
      It has been a privilege for all of us at the CSO to benefit from Mark Clague’s knowledge and expertise.

      As a complement and contrast to Gershwin’s tone poem, we present Edgar Varèse’s original version of “Amériques” (1922), and Stravinsky’s Symphony in C, were the style and spirit of the two first movements composed in Paris and the two last movements composed in the U.S. differ completely.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        Missing, in English, is an ambiguous term. It was mean they were (a) lost, (b) removed or (c) sought after. A headline is not a precision tool.

      • Dan P. says:

        It’s truly amazing the extent to which Gershwin’s published scores were tampered with after his death. The orchestral version of Rhapsody in Blue that has been considered standard was also created long after he died while the original jazz band version, which preserves the sound that Gershwin knew was unknown. The thing that surprises me is that it took so long for critical editions to be published – especially since facsimile editions of these pieces have been available to the public for decades. While what Gershwin wrote and deleted is very interesting, but not critical, what he DID write would seem to be crucial if you want to hear what he actually wrote and not what was deleted without identification by someone else. That part is truly missing.

      • Mark Clague says:

        The new recording, for me at least, is a revelation to hear. Maestro Langreé and the musicians of the Cincinnati Symphony have devoted a lot of time and attention in rehearsal and in concert to the new editions. They’ve even taken the critical edition of the “final version” on tour. For that reason, they have adapted and accommodated to the restoration of Gershwin’s original orchestration and pacing in ways that capture the spirit of the 1929 Victor recording made by Gershwin and Shilkret and also lend their own artistry and commitment to the whole.

        The removal of the spurious timpani roll at the climax of the work is just one of many examples. Conductors and instrumentalists stumble over this passage in the new edition because they are so accustomed to the additions and adaptations in the Campbell-Watson edition.

        (My working hypothesis, by the way, is that the timpani roll was added to the score by New York Phil pops conductor Andre Kostelanetz and then adopted by Campbell-Watson; some of the re-orchestration likewise might be attributed to Toscanini, who conducted and recorded the piece with the Philharmonic just before its publication.)

        It’s important to point out that the Transatlantic recording release contains BOTH editions of An American in Paris — the “uncut” version that represents what would have been heard at the first New York Philharmonic rehearsal in December of 1928 and the cut version (with three of the four eventual cuts) as the piece was heard at its premiere on Dec. 13. An additional 8-bar cut was made for the Feb. 1929 recording. The reason that both versions are on the new recording is to emphasize that the “uncut” version is not the final version of the work and thus that the new “unabridged” version is not intended to replace the critical edition of what for all intents and purposes is the composer’s final intention for the work (i.e., the version with all four cuts). Only three of these cuts are recognized in the Campbell-Watson edition, by the way.

        I wrestled with the question of whether or not to create an “uncut” version at all. Two things changed my mind. One is that there currently exists an uncut version published overseas, so if it’s going to be available, I’d like it to reflect the latest research. Secondly, I think it’s artistically informative to hear the “missing” music. The 104 bars in question all come from what is the development section of the work’s sonata-allegro structure. It is usually and incorrectly heard as only a tone poem. What is revealed in the rarely-heard music is the composer’s contrapuntal inventiveness. For me at least, this recovered music is delightful — the extended flute solo and an unheard bassoon solo, etc. Hearing Gershwin’s contrapuntal skill here deepens my appreciation of not only this work, but of Gershwin as a composer.

        P.S. I should also give a shout out to the musicians of the CSO, Louis Langrée, and record producer Philip Traugott. The final form of the new critical editions benefitted greatly from their comments, suggestions, and outright corrections. They were invaluable and enthusiastic in helping out. I’m especially proud that this new scholarly series is musician informed and performance ready.

  • I was the editor of the Gershwin Facsimile Edition back in 1987 when Warner Bros. Publications published copies of the original manuscripts of “Rhapsody in Blue,” “An American in Paris,” “Concerto in F” and “Cuban Overture.” I made extensive errata lists of the Campbell-Watson editions vs. the manuscripts. The cut bars of “American” were indeed recorded by the Seattle Symphony without acknowledging where they got them from. Anyone could buy copies of these publications. The sales department at WB didn’t know what to do with them, hence they didn’t sell very well. There are numerous stories I could tell about conductors and historians who never mentioned the existence of the Facsimiles or the errata listings in articles (at least one musicologist let it be known that he’d done the research on the works, basically stealing the materials from the publications). Both Robert Kimball and Michael Feinstein told me they loved having these scores so easily available.

    All of the texts that I prepared were reviewed and approved by Wayne Shirley, who was at the Library of Congress at the time. He is listed as preparing the urtext of “Porgy and Bess.” Having examined the manuscripts of this work myself, I can’t wait to see what he has done.

    The cuts on “American” were suggested by Walter Damrosch, who commissioned the work. He was a huge Gershwin fan who realized that Gershwin was an important composer.

    It is true that Campbell-Watson made extensive alterations, and “Cuban Overture” is an example of literally no editing, resulting in an edition which was loaded with errors. We must remember that the alterations he made were necessary to make them playable by most orchestras at the time. There is a section with three soprano saxophones in “American” that was just not practical in the 1940s. We should most certainly follow what Gershwin wrote at this stage in time, but painting Campbell-Watson as a bad guy is unfair, just as it is unfair to criticize Robert McBride for re-orchestrating “Second Rhapsody.” They were just doing their jobs. I knew people who worked with Campbell-Watson, and the word that was commonly used to describe his editing is ‘fussy.’

    • Mark Clague says:

      You’ll be pleased to hear that Wayne Shirley’s new edition of Porgy and Bess — in its performing iteration — will premiere at The Met in NYC on Sept. 23 and runs through February.

      Great to read your comment and I’m an admirer of your work on the facsimile editions. I’ve collected all but Concerto in F at this point. For better or worse, we started from absolute scratch with the new An American in Paris critical edition coming out of the University of Michigan, basing it solely upon the manuscript sources now held in the Library of Congress, corroborated in instances with later recordings made from the original (pre-Campbell Watson) set of parts.

      I completely agree that Campbell-Watson was doing a sincere service to Gershwin in creating an edition that was practical for the era. Gershwin’s fame as a concert composer, in so many ways, rests on the ready availability of these editions, especially in that parts were sold to symphony orchestras at the time, so they are held in the music libraries of many orchestras still today. This has encouraged their frequent performance. I’ve argued with the publisher that the new critical edition should not supplant the availability of the Campbell-Watson versions (what he himself called arrangements). They are beloved by many performers and audiences.

      • I very much appreciate your kind words. It was a joy to work on the Gershwin Facsimiles, just as I’m sure that it was a joy to prepare these new editions. I should tell you that I suggested to the publishers more than once that new editions be prepared, and the attitude was that what they had was perfectly good and ‘authentic,’ a curious word that I hear too often in discussion with musicians regarding my editions with Jazz Lines Publications of big band and studio orchestra music from major libraries of artists.

        At the time, the family did not want a full score of Porgy and Bess published, as they were convinced that it would lead to unauthorized performances.

        Just an FYI – the only reason that the Second Rhapsody was restored was that Michael Tilson Thomas personally came up to our office and asked to get the original score from LOC. We prepared parts for his recording.

        In one of the orchestral publications, Campbell Watson wrote of several meetings with Gershwin to publish his orchestral pieces. Gershwin never saw them due to his death, hence it is an interesting conundrum as to what he would have thought of them.

        And thank you for letting me know that the new edition is the source for the new Met production.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Many thanks for conductor Louis Langree’s for explanation, comments, and enterprise. I hadn’t thought of Nathaniel Shilkret, a Victor Records house conductor, in ages. Now I won’t have to ask Oscar Levant.

    Many variants in “Rhapsody in Blue”– even in Gershwin’s own recordings, piano-rolls, and an off-the-air abbreviated radio performance that he introduces nd plays along with other pieces. Isn’t Paul Whiteman credited with one orchestration? And the opening clarinet glissando reportedly was improvised by a player and adopted by Gershwin.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Different taxi horn pitches? Is this truly such a big deal in the overall gestalt of the entire work?
    I applaud the new critical edition (and the 1987 facsimile edition), but you’ve got to go back to the original sound recordings of Gershwin’s playing for the true essence.
    It’s all Jazz, man….

  • Dave in NC says:

    What’s wrong with letting us hear the “first draft” version?

    People act as if it’s very existence somehow deletes or negates the final version.

    Plenty of us are interested in Gershwin’s thought process and letting us hear how he revised things is a big part of understanding how he composed.

    Why not do this with EVERY score? Bernstein recorded some of Beethoven’s first draft of the 5th symphony and it is endlessly fascinating.

    Why not let us peek behind the curtain? What’s the harm?

    I don’t think this is any different than a publishing a “manuscript version” of a classic novel. Almost every acclaimed novel eventually gets this treatment … so why do many classical fans (and editors) gatekeep their favorite composers so ardently?