B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
F Horn I-II-III-IV
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:
- Bass Drum
- Crash Cymbals
- Snare Drum
- Wood Block
None discovered thus far.
In mid-1932. George Gershwin left New York with several friends to take a vacation in Havana, Cuba. He had just presented a successful show on Broadway – Of Thee I sing –- and the premiere of his Second Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra. While there, he became fascinated with the native music of Cuba and returned to New York armed with Cuban percussion instruments and musical ideas.
These ideas culminated in a symphonic work entitled Rumba; its first performance was presented in an all-Gershwin concert in Levisohn Stadium on August 16, 1932, conducted by Albert Coates. Later, on November 1 of the same year, it was presented at the Metropolitan Opera under the title Cuban Overture. Gershwin provided these program thoughts:
In my composition I have endeavored to combine the Cuban rhythms with my own thematic material. The result is a symphonic overture, which embodies the essence of the Cuban dance.
It has three main parts. The first part, Moderator e Molto Ritmato, is preceded by a [forte] introduction featuring some of the thematic material. Then comes a three-part contrapunctual episode leading to a second theme. The first part finishes with a recurrence of the first theme combined with fragments of the second.
A solo clarinet cadenza leads to the middle part, which is in a plaintive mood. It is a gradual developing canon in a polytonal manner. This part concludes with a climax based on an ostinato of the theme in the canon, after which a sudden change in tempo brings us back to the rumba dance rhythms.
The final is a development of the preceding material in a stretto-like manner. This leads us back once again to the main theme.
The conclusion of the work is a coda featuring the Cuban instruments of the percussion.
As is the case with Second Rhapsody, Cuban Overture portrays a composer in transition –- trying out new ideas in harmony and counterpoint and streamlining his orchestration. Doubtless a major source of this change –- and historians will argue how much or how little –- was due to Gershwin's studies with Joseph Schillinger, which started in 1932.
Certainly, Gershwin's musical interests were widening at this point since his music library now included Bach's The Art of the Fugue, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms and the then-avant-garde works of Berg and Schoenberg. For many years he had been an irregular student of music, and now he surprised his friends with this knowledge of the inner workings of the classics. While linear aspects of his music revealed a growing influence, Gershwin's orchestral technique was making even greater strides. It may very well be that this is the area in which Schillinger influenced Gershwin the most. Cuban Overture has the fewest examples of the excessive instrumental doublings that Gershwin overused in his orchestration of the Concerto in F, An American in Paris, and Second Rhapsody. However, Gershwin, remaining true to his own spirit, continued his orchestral palette and sound in addition to his bad habits in orchestration.
Gershwin also highlighted the formal aspects of his music since he was obviously aware that even critics praising his work were not happy with the sometimes awkward construction of some of his orchestral music. This was an aspect of his creative effort that he constantly sought to improve. This, Second Rhapsody and Cuban Overture were opportunities to experiment in form, imitative counterpoint and more effective transitions.
In Cuban Overture, Gershwin was thus able to demonstrate a great leap forward in musical maturity as well as to show how his interest in new and different musical cultures could affect his own creativity.
- Program Note by Mark Rogers
Rumba was premièred by the New York Philharmonic in the now-demolished Lewisohn Stadium on August 16, 1932, during an all-Gershwin concert of epic proportions. After the performance, an elated composer wrote: “It was, I really believe, the most exciting night I have ever had . . . 17,845 people paid to get in and just about 5,000 were at the closed gates trying to fight their way in unsuccessfully.”
Cuban Overture was Gershwin’s last effort at composing a significant concert work before his untimely death in 1937 at the age thirty-eight.
- Program Note from U.S. Marine Band concert program 24 August 2016
- Audio CD: United States Coast Guard Band - 2013
- Indiana: ISSMA SENIOR BAND GROUP I
- Maryland: VI
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- Montclair (N.J.) State University Wind Symphony (Thomas McCauley, conductor) – 27 October 2019
- Metropolitan Wind Symphony (Lexington, Mass.) (Richard Wyman, conductor) – 27 October 2019
- United States Coast Guard Academy Band (New London, Conn.) (Kenneth W. Megan, conductor) – 5 May 2019
- Michigan State University (East Lansing) Wind Symphony (Kevin Sedatole, conductor) – 25 April 2019
- Brock University (St. Catharines, Ont.) Wind Ensemble (Zoltan Kalman, conductor)– 2 April 2019
- Texas All-State Concert Band (Jamie Nix, conductor) - 16 February 2019 (2019 TMEA Conference, San Antonio)
- McAllen (Tx.) Wind Ensemble (Roger Olivarez, conductor) – 13 November 2018
- Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisc.) Wind Ensemble (Andrew Mast, conductor) – 13 October 2018
- Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Symphonic Winds (Dennis Llinás, conductor) – 11 October 2018
- University of Florida (Gainesville) Wind Symphony (David Waybright, conductor) – 27 September 2018
- Interlochen Center for the Arts (Michigan) Adult Band Camp (Thomas Riccobono, conductor) 12 August 2018
- University of South Alabama (Mobile) Wind Ensemble (William Peterson, conductor) – 24 April 2018
- University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Wind Ensemble (John R. Locke, conductor) – 22 April 2018
- Iowa State University (Ames) Wind Ensemble (Michael Golemo, conductor) – 13 April 2018
- Manhattan (N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Sarah Quiroz, conductor) – 15 March 2018
- North Shore Senior High School (Houston, Tx.) Wind Ensemble (John Reed, conductor) - 22 December 2017 (2017 Midwest Clinic)
- University of Miami (Coral Gables) Frost Symphonic Winds (Robert Carnachan, conductor) – 10 December 2017
- University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble (Tiffany Galus, conductor) – 29 October 2017
- Austin (Tx.) Civic Wind Ensemble (Robert Laguna, conductor) - 20 October 2017
Works for Winds by this Composer
- Rhapsody in Blue (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Murtha) (1924/2020)
All Wind Works
- American in Paris, An (tr. Krance) (1929/1959)
- American in Paris, An (arr Brubaker) (arr. Brubaker) (1929/1994)
- American in Paris, An (arr Hoshina) (arr. Hoshina) (1929/1980)
- American in Paris, An (arr Nowlin) (arr. Nowlin) (1929/2016)
- American in Paris, An (arr Satone) (arr. Satone) (1929)
- American in Paris, An (arr Tamanini) (arr. Tamanini) (1929/2015)
- American in Paris, An (arr Van Gils) (orch. Van Gils) (1929/1994)
- Catfish Row (arr. Hunsberger) (1934/2000)
- Concerto in F (arr. Bulla) (1925)
- Concerto in F (arr. Jorge) (1925/2017)
- Cuban Overture (arr. Koekelkoren) (1925/1987)
- Cuban Overture (arr. Rogers) (1933/2001)
- Embraceable You (arr. Barker) (1930 / 1999)
- Fascinatin' Gershwin (arr. Murtha)
- Fascinating Rhythm (arr. Bulla) (1924)
- Fascinating Rhythm (arr. Del Borgo) (1924/1994)
- Foggy Day in London Town, A (arr. Ninmer) (1937/)
- George by Fred (arr. Frenkel)
- George Gershwin (arr. Chase) (1971)
- Gershwin! (arr. Barker) (1997)
- Gershwin: A Medley (arr. Bennett) (1972)
- Gershwin by George! (arr. Brubaker) (2015)
- A Gershwin Fantasy (arr. Martino)
- Gershwin on Broadway (arr. Moss) (1991)
- Gershwin Tribute to Love, A (arr. Heisinger) (2014)
- I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' (arr. Wagner) (1935/2008)
- Japanese (arr. Wagner; scored Sandler) (c. 1918/2006)
- Man I Love, The (arr. Bergman) (1924)
- March from "Strike Up the Band" (arr. Hearshen) (1927/1987)
- Overture to "Strike Up the Band" (arr. Matsushiro) (1927)
- Porgy and Bess: Selections (arr. Bennett) (1934/1942)
- Porgy and Bess (arr. Barnes) (1934/2002)
- Porgy and Bess Medley (arr. Hermann)
- Porgy and Bess Medley (arr. Lowden) (1934/1984)
- Rhapsody in Blue (arr Hunsberger) (1924/1998)
- Rhapsody in Blue (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Murtha) (1924/2020)
- Rhapsody in Blue (arr. Verrier) (1924)
- Rhapsody in Blue (arr. Grofe) (1924/1942)
- Rhapsody in Blue (tr. Tamanini) 1924/2010)
- Rialto Ripples (arr. Di Scala) (1917/2013)
- 'S Wonderful (arr. Barker) (1919/1996)
- Second Prelude (arr. Krance) (1927/1964)
- Someone to Watch Over Me (arr. Barker) (1926/1995)
- Someone to Watch Over Me (arr. Rumbelow) (1926/2006)
- Strike Up the Band (arr. Barker) (1927)
- Strike Up the Band (arr Brubaker) (1927)
- Strike Up the Band (arr. Paynter) (1927)
- Strike Up the Band (arr. Pegram) (1927)
- Summertime (arr. Custer) (1934/1995)
- Summertime (arr. Garcia; ed. Shaw) (1934)
- Summertime (arr. Lang) (1934/1959)
- Summertime from "Porgy and Bess" (arr. Longfield) (1934/2015)
- Swanee (arr. Holcombe) (1919)
- Symphonic Gershwin, The (arr. Barker) (2011)
- They Can't Take That Away from Me (arr. Barker) (1937/2001)
- Three Preludes (tr. Williams) (1927/2015)
- A Tribute to Gershwin (arr. Bullock) (20098)
- Walking the Dog (arr. Bourgeois) (1937/2007)
- Gershwin, G.; Rogers, M. (2001). Cuban Overture [score]. WB Music: [United States].
- [Perusal score
- Williams, Nicholas Enrico. "Cuban Overture." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 9, edit. & comp. by Richard Miles, 674-679. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2013.