George Gershwin

Cuban Overture

    Description by Norbert Carnovale

    George Gershwin was inspired to produce the colorful Cuban Overture by a vacation in Havana. A nonstop whirl of dancing and revelry drew the composer's attention to the particular rhythmic and instrumental characteristics of the rhumba. In addition to the Overture's more traditional orchestral forces, Gershwin calls for maracas, bongos, claves, and a guiro, directing in the score that they "be placed right in front of the conductor's desk." The Overture is a brilliant orchestral showpiece. Gershwin himself provided commentary for the work:

    "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 parts: the first part (Moderato e Molto Ritmato) is preceded by a (forte) introduction featuring some of the thematic material. Then comes a three-part contrapuntal 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 a middle part, which is in a plaintive mood. It is a gradually 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 finale is a development of the preceding material in a stretto-like manner. This leads us back once again to the main theme. The work concludes with a coda that features the Cuban percussion instruments."

    The Overture received its first performance as part of an all-Gershwin concert by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Albert Coates at Lewisohn Stadium, on August 16, 1932. Editions of the Overture for both piano duet and piano duo have also been published and recorded.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Divine Art DDA 25055
    2018 Austrian Gramophone AG 0007
    2018 ABC Classics
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 RCA Red Seal 88875030742
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290854142
    2014 Gia / GIA Publications GIACD 936
    2013 Sono Luminus DSL 92167
    2013 Mark Custom Recording / Mark Records 50261MCD
    2012 Altissimo ALT 70902
    2012 EMI Classics
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099994895223
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 Warner Classics / Wcj 69816
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca 4782687
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 EnF / EnF Records 1206
    2010 Berlin Classics 0115262
    2010 Decca
    2010 RPO RPOSP 012
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099926796
    2009 Berlin Classics 0149572
    2009 Warner Classics
    2008 Altissimo 7329
    2008 Berlin Classics 0017642 BC
    2008 Divine Art DDA 25057
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099920662
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 Berlin Classics 0184512
    2007 Harmonia Mundi HMU807441
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 000956802
    2007 Berlin Classics 0186002
    2007 ASV / Sanctuary CDRSN3101
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000616702
    2006 Oehms 507
    2006 Brilliant Classics 451
    2006 Berlin Classics 0185432
    2005 CPO 777039
    2005 Storyville / Nostalgia Arts 3033025
    2005 Berlin Classics 0012482
    2005 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 4007
    2005 Erato
    2005 Naxos 8558164-65
    2004 Resonance / Sanctuary Records CDRSB 401
    2004 Berlin Classics 0013362BC
    2003 Decca 472780
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 473844
    2003 Virgin Classics
    2002 Naxos 8559107
    2002 Virgin / Virgin Classics VBD 5620562
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 469 322-2GP2
    2002 Brilliant 6169
    2001 Naxos 8556686
    2001 St. Clair 7315
    2001 Telarc Distribution CD 80542
    2000 Philips 468136
    2000 Decca 4674102
    2000 Teldec 84518
    2000 Decca
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 469139
    1999 Avid MAK 107
    1999 Decca 4664242
    1999 Music & Arts 1042
    1998 Carlton Classics 01297
    1998 Telarc CD 80445
    1998 Avid AMSC 642
    1998 Opus 111 30199/200
    1998 Decca 460 612-2DP
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 457440
    1997 Delos / Delos/Virtual Reality DE 3216
    1997 Carlton Classics 00312
    1997 Berlin Classics 0093012
    1997 Angel Records 566086-2
    1996 Opus 111 2000
    1996 Angel Records 66288
    1995 RCA 68334
    1995 Teldec 46318
    1995 Orfeo 306931
    1995 ASV / ASV/Living Era 328
    1994 RCA Victor 62698
    1994 Sony Classical 64060
    1994 Decca 436570
    1994 Deutsche Grammophon 445768
    1994 ASV / ASV/Living Era CDWHL 2082
    1994 Autograph 820
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 431625
    1992 Opus 111 3064
    1992 Vox 5007
    1991 Naxos 990031
    1990 RCA 6806
    1987 London 417 326-2DH
    Reader's Digest Music 1621
    Reader's Digest Music 4023
    EMI Music Distribution 68430
    BBC Music Magazine 226
    Classic FM 175
    Pro-Arte Records 514
    Rca Red Seal 14551
    RCA 57726
    Supraphonet 111105
    Carlton Classics 00682
    Denon Records 00795041999665
    EMI Music Distribution 38775
    Deutsche Grammophon 4316252
    London 417716
    Mercury 434341
    Decca 4674102
    Virgin 61247
    Virgin 59693
    MCA 6226
    Capriccio Records 10440
    EMI Music Distribution 64303
    Sony Music Distribution 61989
    In Classical Mood 12026
    Mark Custom Recording 4721
    Bvhaast / Bvhaast 8802