Lewis, James- Cubanitis, for solo timpani and orchestra

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For solo timpani and orchestra, includes score and solo timpani part only. Cubanitis is the word Cubans use for the cultural virus that affects outsiders. The Florida based composer, Lewis, was 'infected' in the summer of 1996 and as a result has crafted a witty, entertaining work with a Cuban flavor that features the oft' neglected orchestra timpanist. Duration: ca. 18'

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Review from Percussive Notes (2022):

This concerto for timpani and orchestra is roughly 18 minutes long and requires a substantial ensemble: piccolo, 2 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, alto sax, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, 3 percussionists (each with a large setup), and strings. I don’t lead with that to deter anyone; I do so because it could limit the opportunities for performance, depending on the logistical capabilities of the ensemble.   

Composer James Lewis describes “Cubanitis” as the word Cubans use for the cultural virus that affects outsiders. Lewis says he caught the bug in 1996 and created this quirky, accessible work that imparts a Cuban flavor on the orchestra as well as the timpani soloist.   

The solo part requires five drums and includes an array of implements like traditional timpani mallets, fingers, maracas, and brushes. The part is marked very clearly, including specific explanations of notation, well-thought-out page turns, and timely cues. The only thing missing is tuning changes. I know some like to see the composer’s roadmap written in, but others prefer it left to their own imaginations. The music moves through a variety of styles including Bolero Cubano, Rumba, and Bembe, intertwined with more exploratory sections.   

I recommend this piece for any professional timpanist looking to perform with a symphony orchestra. It could also be appropriate for a student concerto competition. The inclusion of extending techniques and other implements shows audiences that timpani is much more than a few notes played in the back of the orchestra. This is accomplished without going too far and becoming gimmicky.   

—Justin Bunting