The Breckenridge Music Festival will present the annual favorite “Swinging at the Summit: Latin Rhythms,” featuring soprano Christine Robertson and the Festival “Big Band Orchestra” under the direction of Michael Linville, on Friday, Aug. 16.
A name on this program recognizable to both orchestral and popular music audiences is American composer George Gershwin. Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture” was first titled “Rumba.” As “Rumba,” it premiered in August 1932 at the first all-Gershwin concert at New York’s Lewisohn Stadium for a cheering crowd of 18,000 people, with a reported 5,000 turned away.
“It was,” Gershwin later said, “the most exciting night I have ever had.”
Gershwin prepared a short analysis of “Rumba,” in which he said, “The composition was inspired by a short visit to Havana … and I endeavored to combine the Cuban rhythms with my original thematic material. The result is a symphonic overture which embodies the essence of the Cuban dance.”
On the title page, he indicated that the players of the four Cuban instruments — claves, maracas, guiro and bongos — should be placed right in front of the conductor’s stand.
Another work featured in Friday night’s concert, “Oye Como Va,” written in 1963 by Latin jazz and mambo musician Tito Puente, was made popular by a 1970 Santanta cover of the song. Interestingly, the phrasing of the song creates a double meaning in the phrase captured in the title. Translated, the phrase can be interpreted as “How’s it going?” or, with the second part of the phrase added, “mi ritmo,” it means “listen to my rhythm.”
Featured vocalist Robertson has had a versatile career as a leading lady in musical theater and opera and as a concert soloist. In addition to past appearances with the Breckenridge Music Festival, Robertson has appeared as a soloist with the Virginia Symphony, the Rockford Symphony and the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band.