Gottschalk, Louis Moreau (1829 - 1869)
MAGATAGAN, MICHAEL (1960 - )
|Added by magataganm, 18 Jun 2020
Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829 – 1869) was an American composer and pianist, best known as a virtuoso performer of his own romantic piano works. He spent most of his working career outside of the United States. He was the eldest son of a Jewish-English New Orleans real estate speculator and his French-descended bride. Gottschalk may have heard the drums at Place Congo in New Orleans, but his exposure to Creole melody likely came through his own household; his mother had grown up in Haiti and fled to Louisiana after that island's slave uprising. Piano study was undertaken with Narcisse Lettellier, and at age 11, Gottschalk was sent to Paris. Denied entrance to the Conservatoire, he continued with Charles Hallé and Camille Stamaty, adding composition with Pierre Maleden. His Paris debut at the Salle Pleyel in 1845 earned praise from Chopin. By the end of the 1840s, Gottschalk's first works, such as Bamboula, appeared. These syncopated pieces based on popular Creole melodies rapidly gained popularity worldwide. Gottschalk left Paris in 1852 to join his father in New York, only to encounter stiff competition from touring foreign artists. With his father's death in late 1853, Gottschalk inherited support of his mother and six siblings. In 1855, he signed a contract with publisher William Hall to issue several pieces, including The Banjo and The Last Hope. The Last Hope is a sad and sweetly melancholy piece, and it proved hugely popular. Gottschalk found himself obliged to repeat it at every concert, and wrote "even my paternal love for The Last Hope has succumbed under the terrible necessity of meeting it at every step." With an appearance at Dodsworth Hall in December 1855, Gottschalk finally found his audience. For the first time he was solvent, and at his mother's death in 1857 Gottschalk was released from his familial obligations. He embarked on a tour of the Caribbean and didn't return for five years. When this ended, America was in the midst of Civil War. Gottschalk supported the north, touring Union states until 1864. Gottschalk wearied of the horrors surrounding him, becoming an avid proponent of education, playing benefit concerts for public schools and libraries. During a tour to California in 1865, Gottschalk entered into an involvement with a young woman attending a seminary school in Oakland, and the press excoriated him. He escaped on a steamer bound for Panama City. Instead of returning to New York, he pressed on to Peru, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina, staying one step ahead of revolutions, rioting, and cholera epidemics, but he began to break down under the strain. Gottschalk contracted malaria in Brazil in August 1869; still recovering, he was hit in the abdomen by a sandbag thrown by a student in São Paolo. In a concert at Rio de Janeiro on November 25, Gottschalk collapsed at the keyboard. He had appendicitis, which led to peritonitis. On December 18, 1869, Gottschalk died at the age of 40.
His works tended to be light and somewhat exotic in sound, and usually quite challenging for the performer. To an extent, this four- to five-minute Berceuse falls outside the boundaries of all those descriptions. True, in the sweet dreaminess of its main theme and the glittering colors of its keyboard writing, it cannot be described as a composition of great depth. But its songful lullaby manner and overall beauty elevate it to the level of something quite moving, something the listener can return to again and again. The main theme, played over a gentle running figure, is soothing in its soaring, lush Romanticism and in its mesmerizing comfort. When cascades of descending notes enter about a half-minute into the piece, they add a dreamy, harp-like effect to the work. The mood of the music darkens just a bit as it proceeds, but hardly shirks its fluid, gentle manner. The work ends as sweetly and as beautifully as it began. This piece was arranged as a quite lovely song by Gottschalk disciple Lucièn Lambert in 1898.
Source: AllMusic (https://www.allmusic.com/artist/louis-moreau-g ottschalk-mn0001767715/biography).
Although originally composed for Piano, I created this interpretation of "Berceuse: Cradle Song" (Opus 47) for Flute & Concert (Pedal) Harp.