Aaron Copland composed the "Danzon Cubano" in the fall of 1942 as a birthday piece to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the League of Composers. In its original form for two pianos, it was first played by Leonard Bernstein and the composer at the Town Hall testimonial "Salute to the League of Composers" in December 1942, and was later recorded by Copland and Leo Smit for Concert Hall Society Records. This new version for solo piano has been arranged by Leo Smit.
Copland has scored the work for orchestra and the premiere of this version took place in 1946 by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Reginald Stewart conducting.
The composer has written:
"The danzon is a well known dance form in Cuba and other Latin American countries. It is not a fast dance, however, and should not be confused with the rhumba or conga. It fulfills a fuction rather similar to the waltz in our own dance, providing contrast for the more animated numbers. Its special charm is a certain naive sophistication, alternating in mood between passages of thythmic precision and a kind of non-sentimental sweetness."
The "Danzon Cubanon" is based on melodic and rhythmic fragments heard by the composert during several visits to Cuba. The danzon is normally constructed in two halves, which are thematically independent. This is in no sense intended to be an authentic danzon, but only on American tourist's impression of an absorbing Cuban dance form.