American Original: A Salute to Louis Moreau Gottschalk

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Louis Moreau Gottschalk. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection/Wikipedia Commons)

July 4th provides an ideal opportunity to focus on the adventurous life and music of American pianist and composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk. As a concert pianist, Gottschalk was a troubadour of the piano, roaming three continents, as well as Puerto Rico, Cuba and all of the West Indies. He was America's great popularizer of the piano. His music is considered to be a treasure of the romantic piano literature, and he is the most important pianistic output by any American of the mid-19th century.

Gottschalk was born May 8, 1829 in the lush and exotic city of New Orleans, where he spent his first 13 years. He lived near the Congo Square, now called Louis Armstrong Park. There he absorbed the African, Caribbean and Creole music he heard when the slaves were permitted to congregate at certain times. Gottschalk adored his native New Orleans, but despised slavery.

He left for Paris at 13, hoping to study at the celebrated Paris Conservatoire. But its director, Pierre Zimmermann would not even hear him. "America," he piped, "is a land of steam engines, not musicians -- go back home and become a mechanic."

Gottschalk worked privately with Camille Stamaty, Saint-Saëns's teacher, who in 1845 arranged for him to play a private concert. Who was attending that concert? No less than Berlioz, Rossini, and Chopin. The major piece was Gottschalk performing the Polish master's first concerto. The Pole embraced the young American, telling him, supposedly, “you will be a king among pianists.”

Gottschalk returned to the US in 1853 to begin performing in New York. It proved to be very lucrative, and embarked on a four-year extensive tour, becoming quite popular.

In 1857, he disappeared from American view to pursue a more relaxed way of living and composing in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the West Indies. And by 1861, he returned to the US in time for the Civil War. As a Southerner, he proclaimed his Union sympathies and began a nonstop tour of the North, which was extended to the West and Canada. He lived his last few years playing in almost every country of South America. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn (right).



Gottschalk, Louis Moreau: Manchega, RO 143/Op. 3 / Alan Feinberg

Gottschalk, Louis Moreau: La Savane, ballade créole for piano, Op. 3, D. 135 (RO 232) / Michael Lewin

Gottschalk, Louis Moreau: Le Banjo, esquisse américaine for piano, Op. 15, D. 15 (RO 22) / Arthur Friedheim

Gottschalk, Louis Moreau: Tournament Galop, RO 264 / David Dubal

Gottschalk, Louis Moreau: Souvenir de Porto Rico, RO 250/Op. 31 "Marche de Gibaros" / Ivan Davis

Gottschalk, Louis Moreau: Battle cry of freedom, RO 62/Op. 55 / Alan Mandel

Gottschalk, Louis Moreau: Tremelo, RO 265/Op. 58 / Cecile Licad

Gottschalk, Louis Moreau: Pasquinade, RO 189/Op. 59 / Stanley Waldoff

Gottschalk, Louis Moreau: Union, RO 269/Op. 48 / Cecile Licad


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Comments [4]

Les from Miami, Florida

I'm glad Gottschalk is listened to and talked about fairly often. My favorite piece is called "La Bananier" ("The Banana Tree") of all things and the principal theme is one of those melodies you can't stop running through your mind. No less than the King of Spain told him he played it himself and said it was a great favorite and the Queen and Queen Mother were also amused.

Aug. 07 2016 09:43 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

The audio file is there but the web code seems to be looking for it in a folder one step above, directly off "" rather than another folder within.

The link supplied to podtrac is wrong. It's missing a subfolder element. The result is that podtrac then sends back the wrong url and no audio can be played.

Jul. 07 2013 09:14 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

Once again an audio utility box that doesn't work. Couple that with the audio reaching "most listened" well after the end of the original broadcast time seems to indicate a frustration level rather than an appreciation factor.

It was the usual excellent presentation by Mr. Dubal and coupled with the rebroadcast of Ms. Lewin's show on Stephen Collins Foster made for an enjoyable and very traditional (not in the burgers and beer sense) 4th.

Jul. 05 2013 11:15 AM
The Baron from NYC

Check out my favorite Gottschalk piece, his "Grande Tarantelle" for piano and orchestra. The work has also been transcribed for piano four hands and for two pianos.

Jul. 04 2013 05:57 PM

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