George Gershwin: Cuban Overture|
Adapted from: La Salle's Gershwin Index
In 1932 George Gershwin took a short vacation to Cuba. There he was exposed to the native
Cuban performers of various Rumba bands. Almost imediatly Gershwin was captivated by the polyphonic rhythms in
Cuban music. Gershwin was most interested in the Cuban percussion instruments that produced these unique sounds.
Gershwin decided then to compose a work incorporating Cuban instruments and rhythms with his own
"thematic ideas." After approximately three weeks of writing, Gershwin completed the Rumba in July of 1932.
Gershwin said that the Rumba was
"a symphonic overture which embodies the essence of Cuban dance." The work was not composed as a
two-piano version, but instead was written for a single piano and two pianists. After reading
Gershwin's manuscript of the Rumba, musicologist Frank C. Campbell wrote, "Gershwin may not
have considered the work a major effort, but from the rapidly written full score to the
brilliant sounds of its complex orchestra, it reveals a command of superb orchestral technique""
On August 16, 1932, the Rumba was premiered in the open-air Lewisohn Stadium, and Gershwin considered the
concert night to be "the most exciting I ever had."
On November 1, 1932 at the Metropolitan Opera House, the first indoor appearance of the Rumba took place under
the name Cuban Overture.
Gershwin renamed the piece because he believed that the title,
Cuban Overture, gave a "more just idea of the character and intent of the music."
When performing the
Cuban Overture, Gershwin placed the percussion instruments in the front of the orchestra to allow the
audience to see the Cuban instrument's influence on the piece.