Cuban Overture

Premiered at Lewisohn Stadium, New York, on August 16, 1932. New York Philharmonic, Albert Coates (conductor).

Inspired by the music he heard on a 1932 vacation to Havana (“two hysterical weeks…where no sleep was had”), Gershwin created a short, impressionistic piece to provide a taste of Cuban rhythms for American audiences who had never been to the island nation. In an effort to provide authenticity, he brought a set of Cuban musical instruments with him when he returned to New York, and upon completion of the work, originally titled RUMBA, sketched them on the title page of his manuscript, indicating where the instrumentalists should be placed on the stage: “right in front of the conductor’s stand.”