Program 86
"Latin-American Rhythms...
by Jewish-American Composers"

MUSIC: clip from the first movement of Morton Gould’s Latin-American Symphonette performed by the Utah Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maurice Abravanel [Vanguard Classics SVC-9, track 4] [under the following]

Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and for the next hour we’re going to explore a rather unusual but fun theme. That is “Latin-American Music... by Jewish-American Composers.” But don’t worry. I’m planning to do another hour on “Latin-American Music by Latin-American Composers,” which should be a lot of fun as well.

Later on in this hour we’ll hear the Latin-American Symphonette by Morton Gould, Aaron Copland’s El Salón México and his Danzón Cubano, and Leonard Bernstein’s Danzón from his ballet Fancy Free.

MUSIC: fades out

But let’s begin with an overture: George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture.

This work was inspired by a short trip to Havana that Gershwin made in 1932. While there he was captivated by Cuban music with its complex rhythms and unusual percussion instruments. He returned to New York with a set of Cuban sticks, a bongo, a gourd and maracas... and with a new idea for a piece.

August 16 was to be Gershwin night at New York’s Lewisohn Stadium, and Gershwin decided to work up his Cuban themes into a piece for that concert. He called it Rumba at the time, but when it was published he retitled it Cuban Overture so that it wouldn’t be confused with the popular dance.

The orchestral version of this piece is what is usually heard today. So in the true spirit of Compact Discoveries, I’m going to play a version you probably have never heard before. It was arranged for piano duo by Gregory Stone and is performed on a CPO compact disc by Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov — two Bulgarian pianists of Greek origin who have managed to win all of the most prestigious piono duo prizes.

MUSIC: Gershwin (arr. Stone): Cuban Overture, Piano Duo Genova & Dimitrov (CPO 777 039-2, track 4)

George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture as arranged for duo pianists by Gregory Stone. We heard the Piano Duo Genova and Dimitrov. This was from their sixth compact disc. It’s called “America for Two.” We’ll have another cut from that CD immediately following our next piece, which is El Salón México by Aaron Copland. This piece is also on the CPO disc, but this time we’re going to listen to the original orchestral version. First a bit of background.

The same year, 1932, that Gershwin went to Cuba and was inspired by Cuban music, Copland went to Mexico, where he was similarly moved. He lived there for two months in a small village where there were no tourists. He began El Salón México the following year. It was based on popular Mexican themes. From the beginning, Copland wrote, he associated these themes with a dance hall in Mexico City called El Salón México. The dance bands there played a kind of music that Copland found “harsh, flavorsome, screechy and potentially violent.” He was fascinated. The first performance of Copland’s piece took place in Mexico City on August 27, 1937, with Carlos Chávez conducting. In the RCA Victor recording we’re about to hear, Arthur Fiedler conducted the Boston Pops.

MUSIC: Copland: El Salón México, Arthur Fiedler conducts the Boston Pops [RCA Victor Gold Seal 6806-2-RG, track 7]

Aaron Copland’s El Salón México. Arthur Fiedler led the Boston Pops Orchestra. You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and this hour is devoted entirely to “Latin-American Rhythms... by Jewish-American Composers.”

First we had George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture. Then Aaron Copland’s El Salón México. Next another piece by Copland, also inspired by Cuban music following his visit there in 1941. It was written for two pianos and is called Danzón Cubano. Here, once again, is the multiple prize-winning Piano Duo Genova and Dimitrov.

MUSIC: Copland: Danzón Cubano performed by the Piano Duo Genova & Dimitrov [CPO 777 039-2, track 6]

Aaron Copland’s Danzón Cubano. The pianists were Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov. This was from their CPO album called “America for Two.”

You are listening to “Latin-American Rhythms by Jewish-American Composers” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman

[optional one-minute cutaway not included in the total timing of the program]


From Danzón Cubano by Aaron Copland we go next to another Danzón, this one written by a good friend of Copland’s named Leonard Bernstein. It is from Bernstein’s ballet, Fancy Free. Here, once again, is the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler, from an RCA Victor BMG Classics recording.

MUSIC: Bernstein: Danzón from Fancy Free with the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler [RCA Victor BMG Classics 6806-2-RG, track 10]

Danzón from the ballet Fancy Free by Leonard Bernstein. Arthur Fiedler conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra.

I have been devoting this hour of Compact Discoveries to “Latin-American Rhythms by Jewish-American Composers.” I’m going to devote another hour to “Latin-American Music by Latin-American Composers,” which I assure you will be just as much fun and even more surprising.

In this hour I have brought you music by George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. I have one-more Jewish-American composer of Latin-American music to bring you now: Morton Gould. He wrote a piece called Latin American Symphonette with four movements marked as follows: Rhumba, Tango, Guaracha and Conga.

The Latin-American Symphonette was composed in 1940 and first performed in 1941 in Brooklyn, New York. It was broadcast nationally that year. In this Vanguard Classics compact disc recording the Utah Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Maurice Abravanel.

MUSIC: Morton Gould: Latin-American Symphonette, Utah Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maurice Abravanel (Vanguard Classics SVC-9, tracks 1-7)

The Utah Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Maurice Abravanel in this recording of the Latin-American Symphonette by Morton Gould.

You have been listening to “Latin-American Rhythms by Jewish-American Composers” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman

MUSIC: Copland: El Salón México performed by the Piano Duo Genova & Dimitrov [CPO 777 039-2, track 7]] [under the following]

More information on this series is available at CompactDiscoveries.com. Your comments are always welcome there. So, for that matter, are individuals, businesses and foundations who want to keep programs like this on public radio nationwide.

Compact Discoveries is a registered trademark and production of Compact Discoveries, Inc. This program is made possible in part by the members of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC: up and fade out at 56:55

WFMT Announcer: This program is distributed by the WFMT Radio Network. [5 seconds]

Program Ends at 57:00

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