Grand Fantasy for a Great Many Pianos

by Robert Offergeld

(Essay included in Volume One of The Piano Works of Louis Moreau Gottschalk)

Like anything else that depends on professional interpretation for its existence, music can get waylaid in time. Perhaps inevitably, the music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk has been so sequestered for almost a century.

Odd as it sounds, Gottschalk was a cultural contemporary both of Andrew Jackson, with whom he had a childhood encounter in New Orleans, and of Hector Berlioz, who was his friend and champion in the Paris of Baudelaire: the point being that Gottschalk was the only composer the nineteenth century managed to invent who was at once a grassroots American and a ground-floor Roman tic. More sui generis than that you cannot get, and Gottschalk's penalty was to enter the special limbo that awaits those for whom we cannot readily find comparisons. Thanks to his moment on the timetable of Romanticism, it was one of his costlier fatalities to remain uncompanioned not only as an American in Europe but as an American in America.
Strictly speaking, history since has not operated on Gottschalk at all. But being ahistoric is not the same thing as being obsolete. Gottschalk's music is not the collection of frilly museum pieces that the newsmagazines have lately supposed it to be. As its best it possesses expansive vitalities of sentiment - and of sensuousness - ably expressed. These virtues are not to be despised because fashion from time to time finds them intellectually disreputable. In Gottschalk's voice, moreover, we still detect a strain of the early-morning freshness that so gustily aired the arts of the young Republic. And even in his least sturdy pieces we hear an explicit personal joy in the fashioning of music, a composing trait that virtually disappeared with America's colonial status in the International Masterpiece Industry of the Late Romantic era.

The circumstances of Gottschalk's life are if anything stranger than the silence that befell his music. Merely the where, when, and who of his nonstop intercontinental odyssey are so formidable that a chronological synopsis seems the best approach to his story. The eight biographical periods noted below are not arbitrary. Gottschalk's public life was just about as violently discontinuous as its geographical schedule looks. The related stylistic changes in his music are not proposed as a musicological summation but as a rudimentary topographical map for use in territory largely uncharted.

Childhood in New Orleans 1828-1842

Gottschalk was the first child of a large, doting, and relatively well-to-do family. His mother, born Aimee de Brusle, was a celebrated Creole beauty of aristocratic French antecedents. She was by temperament emotional, demonstratively affectionate, and thoroughly impractical. She was also so youthful in appearance that she passed, even in her own family (which unwarrantably supposed her to have been a child bride), as being five years younger than she actually was. Aimee Gottschalk idolized her oldest son unconscionably, and some of the darker strains of his nature may have been derived from her - his inflammable eroticism, possibly; probably his premature anxieties about aging; and perhaps his strange fatalism at the prospect of his death in South America, about which his mother had a premonitory dream.

Gottschalk's father, Edward, was an ambitious but incautiously speculative businessman of London origin and Jewish descent. He was highly literate: on his deathbed, he blessed his by then famous son in seven languages. Edward Gottschalk was also, according to family report, "what is called strict" - an evident euphemism for an exacting and inflexible disposition. By way of making a little man of his precocious first son, he taught Gottschalk to say, at the age of three, "When Moreau shall have brothers and sisters, papa counts upon his working for them, and he must think beforehand that they will have a father in Moreau." This must be one of the earliest cases on record of what psychiatrists call the internalization of the father as super-ego. Beneath his exemplary dutifulness, however, Gottschalk's secret emotional nature was as unbridled as his mother's, and in consequence he spent much of his life in flight from the reproaches of an exacting father image.

As it happened, Gottschalk's infant training in his family duties came in handy. When he was eighteen, his mother separated from his father and followed her son to Paris, taking along six brothers and sisters to whom Gottschalk thereafter stood in loco parentis. It is perhaps not too surprising that although he was to have uncounted affairs, he never found it in him to marry.

From infancy, Gottschalk demonstrated musical gifts of a high order, including a phenomenal memory. At three he reproduced on the piano, unaided, some airs from Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable that were sung by his mother - this being followed by the tune of the President's March, better known in its vocal form as Hail, Columbia. In the course of his childhood, he assimilated the complete scores of the Meyerbeer opera and Bellini's Norma, and is said never to have forgotten a note of either. These composers remained the particular object of Gottschalk's adult veneration (he once remarked that the beauties of the Meyerbeer work colored his entire childhood), and in his later and larger works, even Hail, Columbia was to turn up grandly in versions for both piano and orchestra.

In view of his lifelong predilection for extemporizing on operatic themes, it should be noted that the accounts of Gottschalk's extraordinary memory seem to have been something more than the customary folklore of prodigy. There is a plausible tale (Gottschalk himself does not recount it, but he was obviously its source) of his having once wagered Berlioz that he could memorize a new Meyerbeer opera in its entirety from hearing three performances. The new Meyerbeer opera was necessarily Le Prophete, and the year of the episode would have been 1849, when Gottschalk was twenty. After Gottschalk won the wager, playing even the opera's recitatives, Berlioz privately approached Meyerbeer's publisher to ascertain if Gottschalk had borrowed a score. On learning that such was not the case, Berlioz reportedly circulated the story himself.
At seven, pinch-hitting on a moment's notice for the regular organist (who was also his piano teacher), Gottschalk played Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Saint-Louis, winning his first newspaper notices as a prodigy. Shortly before his twelfth birthday, at his "farewell" concert in New Orleans, he played Henri Herz's Variations on Themes from Meyerbeer's Il Crociato. After which, because of his mother's desperate refusal to part with him, he failed to leave town for more than a year.

But at thirteen, and despite the prostration of his mother, his father succeeded in dispatching him to Paris for training as a piano virtuoso. Gottschalk, who was undersized and delicate, sailed for Le Havre in the care of a ship captain known to his father.

If we had difficulty in establishing Gottschalk's floruit any other way, we could determine it from the twin circumstances that when he left America, he travelled on a sailing ship named the Taglioni, and that when he returned to the United States ten years later, ocean vessels were no longer being named for legendary ballet dancers. The sentimental morning of the nineteenth century was over, and Gottschalk travelled homeward on a steamer named the Humboldt. The export of a systematized and aggressive German culture was by then beginning to be everywhere in evidence, and the fact was to be a critical one for Gottschalk's posthumous reputation. Neither the indigenous American flavor nor the French textural elegance of his piano pieces was of interest to the crowds of German musicians who emigrated to the United States after the 1860's.

Youth in Paris 1842-1849

Gottschalk lived en pension in a city in which his mother's connections opened important doors for him. His general education, which included Greek, Latin, Italian, horsemanship, and fencing, was entrusted to fashionable tutors, one of whom he shared with the sons of Louis Philippe and other Bourbon young.

Upon his arrival in Paris, Gottschalk had been rejected without a hearing by Zimmerman, the Director of the Paris Conservatoire, on the grounds that anyone from America was necessarily a barbarian. Gottschalk consequently studied piano privately, first with Carl (later Sir Charles) Halle, next with Camille Stamaty, a disciple of Kalkbrenner. In composition, which Gottschalk studied with Pierre Maledan, one of his junior fellow-pupils was Camille Saint-Saens. Another, studying piano with Stamaty, was Georges Bizet. Gottschalk's lifelong altruistic trait was already marked. He was evidently a soft touch, generous with his pocket money, and his young friends called him "the millionaire."

Maledan was evidently a remarkably stimulating teacher of composition. In his memoirs, Saint-Saens says that Maledan's system was" ... a wonderful tool with which to get to the depths of music - a light for the darkest corners. In this system the chords are not considered in and for themselves - as fifths, sixths, sevenths - but in relation to the pitch of the scale on which they appear. The chords acquire different characteristics according to the place they occupy, and, as a result, certain things are explained which are, otherwise, inexplicable." The liberating effect of this unorthodox approach to tonality may have had some bearing on Gottschalk's peculiar harmonic coloration, particularly its pre-Wagnerian chromatic adventurousness, as well as on his facility at improvisation.

At eighteen, Gottschalk was in full exercise of his most lasting social habit, which was simply that of knowing everybody everywhere. Through the entree of a distant relative, the Marquise de la Grange, his patrons and partisans included the Duchesse de Narbonne, the Dukes Salvandi and d'Ecarre, the Rothschilds, the wealthy art patron Edouard Rodrigues, the Marquise de Salcedo, the Comtesse de Flavigny, "Mademoiselle" de Montijo (as Gottschalk speaks, in later days, of the future Empress Eugenie), the so-called Princesse de Salm, Monsieur Orfila, physician to the King, Monsieur de Girardin, press-lord of Paris, and the great English eccentric Lord Tudor. And, in the midnight world of soupers d'artiste - not the dolorous world of Murger's La Vie de Boheme but the glittering one commemorated in Offenbach's La Vie parisienne - there were many more.

These were the people, and theirs the milieu, that completed Gottschalk's education. Not all of them turn up in his journal, and as one senses, in his casual or elliptical allusions to those who do, the ingrained worldliness that sets Gottschalk apart from every other American of his era, it dawns that his boyhood really ended very early. It was as a man of considerable discretion, not just a talented and precocious boy, that Gottschalk at eighteen managed to please the livelier element of Parisian society - including the robust demi-monde that populates the more flavorsome memoirs of the July Monarchy and the Second Empire. It is interesting to reflect that if Gottschalk had remained in Paris or returned to it, and if he had lived as long as his young friend Saint-Saens, we might well encounter his fictional image in one or another of the salons of Proust's novel - and just as likely in that of the Princesse de Guermantes, to which his birth would have given him access, as in that of Madame Verdurin, in which he might be expected to turn up as an orbiting celebrity.

As he fulfilled, under the loftier of these auspices, his obligatory salon appearances, benefits, and non payant concerts, Gottschalk was officially "discovered," and with genuine admiration, by Chopin and Berlioz. Chopin liked the way he played Chopin (the E Minor Concerto) and publicly said so in 1845, when Gottschalk was not yet sixteen. Later Chopin also expressed his pleasure with Gottschalk's early compositions (particularly Ossian: Deux Ballades, published in 1848). In Mes souvenirs, Leon Escudier, the editor and music publisher, speaks of Chopin's regard for Gottschalk, and Antoine Marmontel, of the Conservatoire, reports it as coming from Chopin that he recognized in the American a sensitivity akin to his own.

Berlioz became Gottschalk's active champion and his lasting friend, guiding his early steps as a composer, advising him on his career, and writing him confidential letters about his own troubles for many years after Gottschalk had returned to America. Beginning in 1846, Berlioz presented Gottschalk often as soloist with his various orchestras, and after Gottschalk made his debut, Berlioz brought him under close scrutiny in Le Journal des debats, both as composer and pianist. Gottschalk possessed, says Berlioz, "all the different elements of the sovereign power of the pianist, all the attributes that surround him with an irresistible prestige."

In 1849, making his formal Paris debut at the age of twenty, Gottschalk played, as his most important group, those "Creole" compositions of his own that were already the rage of the salons he frequented. The critics compared his pianistic style to Chopin's, praised his dazzling technique, and defined the poetic originality of his temperament and his compositions. He was judged,. by consensus, to be the authentic voice of the New World in music, and it was thus France that first perceived and insisted on the importance of his Americanism.

The literary community bestowed its imprimatur by way of Theophile Gautier and Victor Hugo. Gautier said that Gottschalk had "pitched his own tent alongside the masters" - meaning Liszt, Thalberg, and Prudent. Hugo called Gottschalk "a young bard come from America ... a poet, a man of gay imagination, an eloquent orator who can move his audiences." These images were not just graceful compliments. All of them had pointed reference to Gottschalk and were much paraphrased by other critics. The "bardic" note covered Gottschalk's musical allusions to the Ossianic poems. His "gaiety," he was later to discover, unhappily, was exactly what humorless New Englanders detested in music. And his hypnotic eloquence in performance was to be summarized in the rave review of his New York debut by the critic Richard Storrs Willis, who said that his playing had "the effect of oratory in times of public commotion."

Thus begun, the critical chain reaction leaped frontiers, and even today it is possible to feel the contagion of real excitement in the reams of journalistic copy that accompanied Gottschalk across Europe. Within three years of his Paris debut, he was known from Madrid to Moscow as the first American musician of stature, an important composer whose originality had expanded the expressive resources of concert music.
The most important of the compositions that lit this unexpected blaze - Bamboula, Le Bananier, La Savane, Le Mancenillier - are virtuoso piano pieces developed from Gottschalk's juvenile recollections, New Orleans songs and dances in the Afro-American vernacular, and unquestionably the first so devised. The rhythmic vitality, the jazzlike phrase forms, and the exotic coloration of these works added up to the most interesting concert novelty heard in Paris since the mazurkas and polonaises of Chopin. And although Gottschalk was already composing in other genres, it was with his Creole pieces that he proceeded systematically to electrify his European audiences - a phenomenon that did not pass unnoticed among rival virtuosos and an equally observant composing fraternity, not to mention music publishers (both the reputable and the larcenous) from Germany to Spain.

What Gottschalk's early listeners mostly understood by his "originality" was his Afro-American subject matter. But the Creole pieces possess other singularities as well, including some that were probably less visible then than they are today. The Romantic piano literature offers any amount of genre painting that is larger in concept and profounder in feeling, but it harbors nothing else quite like these pieces for their peculiar combination of lively color and simple language with a kind of inspired mechanical inventiveness. As working musical contrivances, they bear surprisingly little resemblance to the genteel salon piece that was standard in their day - which is to say, they are not simply Mendelssohnian stereotypes with qualifying touches of New Orleans local color. Gottschalk in later days could polish off that sort of thing with one hand tied behind his back, and often did. But what he actually produced in Paris was a new kind of piece with a new kind of motor energy. Also surprisingly, this curious invention was in no sense an awkwardly realized or homespun affair, for all its "effects" still function beautifully and all its surfaces are quite handsomely crafted. Yet what we find beneath the high professional competence in each of these works is an original and occasionally quirky American contraption, one in every way as odd - and as remarkably efficient - as the McCormick Reaper or Poe's The Raven.

The most popular of these pieces, and the one that was unquestionably the touchstone of Gottschalk's enormous initial success, was Le Bananier, subtitled Chanson negre, a work developed from what the composer calls, in an 1851 letter to his father, "a Creole air, that you in New Orleans must have heard often." The air in question was En avan' Grenadie (first identified by the composer's sister, Clara Gottschalk Peterson, in 1902). In its traditional form this tune, like that of Gottschalk's later Pasquinade, is a two-phrase vernacular gavotte sentence of eight measures (four plus four) beginning on a secondary accent. But in Le Bananier Gottschalk expands this conventional folk statement to an irregular sentence of ten measures (five plus five), producing in the repetition of the phrase an arrestingly displaced primary accent, which in turn creates a kind of syntactical suspense lacking in the original. Oftener than not, this kind of poetic transformation of vernacular material is less than a complete success, since it compromises simplicity and also tends to blur character. Not so, however, in Le Bananier, and when Gottschalk shortly states the tune in its original form, the simplification does two things. Its sweetness refreshes us like the smiling explanations that unravel a folk mystery and the composer simultaneously permits us to measure his own sophistication. Nothing could have demonstrated more convincingly to Gottschalk's musical peers his organic familiarity with his material and his vast ease in working it.

Meanwhile Le Bananier, like several other Gottschalk pieces, derives its chief propulsion not from recurring harmonic crises but from an underlying drum beat that is stated initially - and quite primitively - in the bass. Harmonically this bass evokes the "musette" attached to many an eighteenth-century gavotte, but here the pastoral glance backward is directed not at Versailles but at the Casbah. The drumming rhythm is simply the left-hand cliche in fifths that was universally familiar to turn-of-the century American theater pianists as the hootchie-kootchie, a candid vulgarism since used in dozens of Tin Pan Alley songs to suggest exoticism of the Little Egypt variety.

As introduced by Gottschalk to European concert music in the late 1840 's, however, this inelegant device was fresh as a North African daisy and timely to boot. The French national anthem of the moment was Partant pour la Syrie. In the dance halls of the Paris suburbs, to which a slumming jeunesse doree flocked at midnight to witness that licentious novelty from Morocco called the can-can, the reigning culture-hero was the spahi, a tiger in the Algerian wars but highly ornamental on leave, particularly when dancing to native drums. And it was in this somewhat steamy social context that Gottschalk's fashionable listeners, many of whom were also connoisseurs of the unreformed can-can, were seldom to be put off with less than three consecutive performances, bumper to bumper, of his Chanson negre.

The general European enthusiasm for this piece may be estimated from an 1863 source, an American blurb for Le Bananier (published in New York by William Hall) in which the statistical information was necessarily provided by Gottschalk himself: "It may be questioned whether any piece has ever been so much played or so much applauded. Gottschalk alone has played it at fifteen hundred concerts in Europe.  Goria, Ravina, Prudent, Madame Pleyel, etc., etc., adopted it in their programmes. Transcribed for the violin by Leon Reynier, and for the violincello by Offenbach, it became proverbial in the music trade for its enormous and universal sale. A single publisher in Paris realized 250,000 francs with this little piece alone, and at the end of two years sold the copyright to another publisher for 25,000 francs more ... "   As a commercial beginning, this was not bad.

But this inordinately popular "little piece" also had its repercussions among serious composers, several of whom viewed Gottschalk's successful exoticism with more than casual interest. In the early decades of this century, when Debussy was still the chief modernist in sight, provincial American musicologists noted timidly that Golliwog's Cakewalk betrayed certain resemblances - could they be more than coincidental? - to Le Bananier and its companion pieces. In 1851 Georges Bizet, as a prodigy pianist of twelve, played several of the Creole pieces, including Le Bananier, in both his public and his private concerts. The scores of these works remained in Bizet's library years later, and it seems likely that the composer of the most famous habanera of all time first explored this West Indian rhythm in the piano pieces of his American friend.

An obvious connection between the above circumstances is provided by Ernest Guiraud, a younger contemporary of Gottschalk's from New Orleans who followed him to Paris for musical training in 1849. Gottschalk introduced Guiraud to both Bizet and Marmontel, and Guiraud in due time composed the music for the Carmen recitatives and became, at the Conservatoire, the teacher in composition of Debussy.

Considering that Le Bananier is a tropical piece about a banana tree, its further adventures among the snows of Russia are no less suggestive. The Soviet mathematician-musicologist Serge Dianin discovered in Borodin's library a manuscript of Le Bananier in Borodin's hand. In his 1963 biography of the Russian composer, Dianin devotes several pages to an analysis of the motives that Borodin evidently took from Le Bananier for the Polovtsian Dances in Prince Igor. Borodin's autograph score might seem to indicate that Gottschalk had at least two important professional fans in mid-century Moscow, and one rather wonders whose copy it was of Le Bananier that Borodin borrowed in order to make his own.

The Paris publication of Le Bananier seems to have followed shortly after Gottschalk's formal debut in 1849. But it was perhaps another event, one the composer liked to recall years later, that provided him at the time with his liveliest sense of personal gratification. In that year he sat by invitation on the honors jury of the Paris Conservatoire. On the same jury was Zimmerman, who had barred him from the Conservatoire just seven years earlier, and the trial composition for the contestants was Gottschalk's Bamboula, a tremendously kinetic piece based on the dances of the New Orleans Negroes in the place Congo.

Tours of Switzerland and the French Provinces 1850-1851

In reading Gottschalk's press reviews for this period, one has an odd impression of blurred Alpine echo effects: the public interest in him is so great that his Paris concerts are reported as news in the provinces and his provincial activities are retailed in Paris. His concert schedule, his income, and his lionization are all increasing. At the beginning of 1851, the editor of La France musicale reports a Gottschalk "Return to Paris": "He has played more than fifty times in concert, and every time he has been, so to say, carried off in triumph."

In addition to his public concerts, Gottschalk played in the important provincial salons, and on occasion these private appearances too are reported.  We have a glimpse of him at a soiree in Bordeaux, the lion of somebody's "Wednesday": "As to Gottschalk, everybody knows the immense effect he always produces. At half past two in the morning he was still at the piano. Applauded, surrounded, feted, they gave him no rest .... "

In the salons, Gottschalk at times played, along with \'some dreamy legend of his distant country," certain fugues of Bach and Beethoven sonatas, including the Appassionata. The composer-violinist Julius Eichberg (later to be heard from as a distinguished musical figure in Boston) heard him play in the "profound" style of Beethoven and the "metaphysical" style of Bach, and in La Nouvelliste Vaudois of Geneva, Eichberg contended that Gottschalk, like Liszt and Thalberg, was one of the chosen, and had no need to take up a specialty. "En resume," he concludes, "marvellous composer and pianist, the meteor of last winter's season in Paris, fondled and feted everywhere."

Both of Eichberg's verbs, as it happened, were accurate. First, as to "feted" .... In Geneva, Gottschalk made his first royal conquest, the Grand Duchess Anna of Russia. The Grand Duchess was in a sense the senior royalty (non-regnant) of Europe. In addition to being the aunt of Queen Victoria, she was the wife (long estranged) of the Tsarevich Constantine (son of the mad Tsar Paul), to whom her marriage had been arranged by Catherine the Great. The Grand Duchess, now elderly, and her chamberlain and presumed lover Baron de Vauthier, also elderly, were much affected by Gottschalk's public performance of the Konzerstuck by Carl Maria von Weber, who happened, of course, to have been an old friend of the Baron's .... (The reader deserves to be put on notice, at this point, that in Gottschalk's vicinity, coincidence overworks itself to the point of preposterousness.)

Life now became for Gottschalk a sort of euphoric garden party chez Her Imperial Highness, where he played the piano and described life in the United States for the Queen of Sardinia, for the "Vice-Queen of Poland," as an early account gives it, for the Prince of Prussia, and even for-according to the same account - "the Hospodars of Wallachia."  The average pianist could dine out for years on having played for just one Wallachian Hospodar, but in Gottschalk's life two or more of them seem scarcely visible.

While clarifying the Grand Duchess' notions about American politics (she was under the impression that Barnum was one of our great statesmen), Gottschalk composed some music for her. The piece was Jerusalem, Grande Fantasist's Triomphale, a paraphrase on Verdi's I Lombardi under its Paris title. It is a big, showy, and not very good piece, but it has great interest as Gottschalk's first essay at royal Gebrauchsmusik. He would shortly much improve his mastery of this idiom, and in the United States he would even adapt it successfully to democratic circumstances. His mistake in Geneva was to use Verdi's melodies instead of tunes broadly relevant to his patron and familiar to everyone else, such as national airs.

Gottschalk atoned for Jerusalem gracefully enough. His already published Opus 1 was a privately printed Polka de salon, allegedly composed in 1846 but more likely a year or two earlier. It is obvious juvenilia, much overwritten, but Gottschalk now took it in hand as a bijou for the Duchess and showed just how accomplished an editor he had become. Emended and dedicated to his patron as Danse ossianique (Opus 12), with half the notes removed and a new tune added, it is fresh, delicate, and in fact could scarcely be prettier.

The Duchess meanwhile was returning his compliments with real jewels, including a brooch consisting of diamonds clustered around an enormous pearl that sounds like a dynastic Victorian museum piece. This trophy was the foundation of Gottschalk's extensive collection of honorific jewels, which eventually included royal orders, head-sized vermeil laurel wreaths set with amethysts, and gold medals struck in his honor by grateful communities and various public associations. Later he would always wear his royal orders at his public appearances, presumably awing even the bemused gold-miners for whom he played operatic transcriptions on the California frontier.

As to Eichberg's other verb, "fondled" .... It was in Calvinist Geneva, of all places, that Gottschalk's public amatory legend began and his first "disappearance" was recorded. At the conclusion of a public concert, he was summarily abducted, before witnesses, by an Amazonian young woman. Gottschalk was personable but rather slight, and his captress simply picked him up bodily, deposited him in her carriage, and drove off. He was gone for five weeks, during which hiatus Geneva was agog and Paris immensely tickled. "Jenny Lind has been surpassed," observed the Paris critic Oscar Commetant in Le Siecle. "At least she was never carried off bodily."

On the face of it, the story couldn't be sillier, but the abductive act and the disappearance were real enough. The perfect calm maintained during the episode by Gottschalk's friends, royal and other, indicates that it was all entendu. Everybody must have had a lot of fun, not excluding Gottschalk.

He reappeared for the occasion of his farewell concert in Switzerland. This was a big benefit in Yverdon for the Grandson hospital, which realized the entire proceeds of the concert and named one of its wings in Gottschalk's honor.

The Spanish Apotheosis 1851-1852

At the age of twenty-two, Gottschalk entered on the rather stupefying grand finale of his European period. Under the patronage of Queen Isabella II, officially declared and nationally promulgated, Gottschalk became the musical idol of Spain. Between his concerts in the provinces, he was for some eighteen months an on-and-off guest of the Court in Madrid. When out of Madrid, he was a kind of guest-on-loan to decentralized members of the royal family and the provincial governors.

His concerts, and particularly the Spanish music he wrote for them, caused frenzied popular demonstrations. Beginning in the theaters, these grew into al fresco affairs involving civic processions, formal military reviews, and nocturnal serenades in brass under the composer's balcony. His new music won him, from Isabella II (and despite her intense dislike of the United States), his .first knighthood-or rather, his first two knighthoods; those of the orders of Isabella the Catholic and, some years later, of Charles III. It also won him the sword of Francisco Montes, Spain's then greatest bullfighter, ceremoniously presented by Jose Redondo y Dominguez, a celebrated bullring protege of Montes. And, "with her own hands," the pretty Infanta Josefa, the younger sister of the King, baked him a cake.

The unusual warmth of Gottschalk's Spanish welcome may have been due in part to a misapprehension - or at least to a genealogical speculation lacking proof. The Order of Isabella the Catholic was instituted by Ferdinand VII in 1815 to honor loyal colonials, and its award to Gottschalk possibly contains a political allusion to Spain's former possession of Western Louisiana and New Orleans (1762-1800). But the gesture may also contain an assumption that its recipient possessed Spanish antecedents. The Chicago critic George Upton, who knew Gottschalk well, asserts that his father was in fact a Spanish Jew, presumably of a Christianized family.

Gottschalk had already created a more than parochial stir in Paris and Switzerland. But there is something about the sound of compacted national applause heard across a distant frontier that changes the world's notions of a man and the man's notions of himself. With his Spanish success, Gottschalk's musical image, and his personal gait, became truly international.

His first reaction was a strange one, a kind of recklessly euphoric indulgence of an inscrutably odd whim. Even in youth, Gottschalk habitually gave money or other comfort to children and unfortunates he encountered in the streets, and now he had money to burn. In Vallodolid his attention was arrested by a small, enterprising, and apparently homeless gypsy boy named Ramon. The boy's father was in prison for murder, and Ramon, refusing to beg, was modelling and attempting to market little figures of wax. Gottschalk fed the boy, housed him, and clothed him-or rather, excited by the idea of turning a street-urchin into a prince, had him costumed magnificently in the Andalusian style by a tailor. Enchanted by what he had created, he then legally adopted Ramon as his son, thus becoming at twenty-two an instant paterfamilias with none of the attendant disadvantages of marriage. Upon his return to Madrid, Gottschalk solemnly presented Ramon to the Queen as "a fellow-artist"in proof of which dignity Ramon gave Her Majesty a little wax bull of his own creation. Subsequently, after visiting the boy's father in prison and paying him a small fee, Gottschalk brought Ramon to the United States, where he assumed the responsibility for his care until the boy was old enough to fend for himself. Ramon appears to have remained in the South, for he presently turned up, during the Civil War, as the personal valet of General Beauregard.

Among his new Spanish pieces, which may be seen as the principal power source for these extravagant developments, are some of Gottschalk's most convincing ones. They are based on national airs and on traditional dances of the provinces or, in some cases, on Gottschalk's original and extremely effective tunes in the same idioms. The most popular of them in Spain, and Gottschalk's biggest effort to date, was a battle-piece, El Sitio de Zaragoza (The Siege of Saragossa), programed as a "grand symphony for ten pianos." This score, which numbered three hundred pages, has not survived except in a fragment reworked as a brilliant piano solo, La jota aragonesa, based on the same dance that Glinka used for his orchestral overture. In its original form, El Sitio was apparently a blockbuster for which the word extraordinary seems scarcely fair. In addition to assorted battle effects, including bugle calls and cannonades, it contained La Marcha real (the national hymn), the Aragonese jota, and other familiar vernacular tunes.
The history of El Sitio does not end in Spain.

After Gottschalk's return to the United States in 1852, and the substitution of American tunes for Spanish ones, the piece became - it is admittedly hard to imagine just how - Bunker's Hill, Grand National Symphony for Ten Pianos. Still later, with the incorporation of Stephen Foster's Old Folks at Home and Oh! Susanna, it became a piano solo programed variously as National Glory and American Reminiscences. The last development represents Gottschalk's first use of Foster melodies, which thereafter he handles exactly as if they were a common fund of folk tunes.

The most impressive of the Spanish pieces, which incorporate such novelties as castanet effects and guitar figurations carried off with real brilliancy, are Souvenirs d'Andalousie (containing the Cana, Fandango, and Jaleo de Jerez), and Manchega, a concert etude. When compared to Gottschalk's earlier Afro-American pieces, they reveal a greater simplicity of treatment and a considerable gain in elegance. The tune of the Fandango is famous today as Ernesto Lecuona's Malaguena. The Manchega seems to be original Gottschalk, but with references to a dance from the province of La Mancha. It contains an extremely subtle and tricky cross-rhythm, and is, in fact, in every way a handsome piece. Its composition date is usually given as 1856 (which is when Gottschalk first played it in New York), so that it may reflect a Spanish mood fired by Gottschalk's visits to Cuba.

An early (1863) first-witness source provides an interesting footnote on Gottschalk in Spain. It reminds us that, thanks to his skill in improvising, he did a great deal of his composing in public. Speaking of Souvenirs d'Andalousie, the 1863 source says: "Its frame and its principal variations were extemporized by Gottschalk at the concert given to celebrate the saint's day of the Infanta of Spain, Dona Luisa, in Sevilla, by his Royal Highness the Prince of Montpensier."

This footnote is also interesting because of Gottschalk's backstage intimacy with the highly placed personages it mentions. Dona Luisa was the Queen's sister, and much distrusted by the Queen. The Prince of Montpensier was Dona Luisa's husband and the son of Louis Phillipe, King of the French, who with much intrigue and some bribery had introduced him into the Spanish royal house in the historic affair of the Spanish Marriages, thereby enraging Queen Victoria and bringing France to the brink of war with England.

According to contemporary rumor, Gottschalk's popularity with the Montpensiers was viewed by Queen Isabella with great displeasure. It is a little hard to guess exactly what happened, since rumor also connected Gottschalk with one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, the young Countess de Montijo or "Mademoiselle," as Gottschalk later refers to her in his journal - who was presently to become the wife and Empress of Napoleon III. As if that weren't imbroglio enough, Gottschalk was much admired by the Spanish King, who liked to play duets with him - and the King, although by Gottschalk's account a courteous, affable, and sensitive young man, was of a pronouncedly feminine disposition. So much so that at Courts other than his own he was breezily referred to as "Paquita" ....

At any event, the story goes that the Queen at length gave Gottschalk just twenty-four hours to leave the country. If such was the case, it was the first time that he had to make tracks for foreign climes by request. It was not, however, to be the last.

Meanwhile it is certain that Gottschalk was remembered with more than a little favor by the Countess de Montijo. After she had become Empress of the French, and after Gottschalk had become an American celebrity, Eugenie communicated with him by way of the Comtesse de Flavigny - an elderly lady-in-waiting of her own who was also a Gottschalk partisan - offering him the post of court pianist and director of the court balls at the Tuileries. Gottschalk declined to undertake these duties for the Second Empire, and it gives the musical sociology of the era an instructive dimension to note that the man who finally got the job was Emil Waldteufel, composer of The Skater's Waltz and some hundreds of similar pieces. The tune mentioned was tootled by a small band as the Emperor and his suite glided solemnly over the ice-rink on the Bois de Boulogne. Indeed, it would have been hard to find a respectable music box of the day that lacked one or more of Waldteufel's confections, and they may be imagined as a sort of tinkling international backdrop to the rather more pungent musical comments of Offenbach in Paris and Gottschalk in New York.

Initial Tours of the United States and the West Indies 1853-1859

Gottschalk's first concert in New York was not the tumultuous affair he had learned to expect in Europe, and in fact it lost him money. But with his second appearance, a ground swell of enthusiasm began to be felt. For one thing, the legend of his recent adventures among the crowned heads of Europe (accounts of his royal decorations, for example, became a succulent feature of his press coverage) did not fail to affect his countrymen, great numbers of whom were subject socially to highly undemocratic fevers. Public curiosity about him ran high from the first, and in surprisingly short order Gottschalk was able to list a variety of eminent Americans among his partisans.

From a much-reported incident that took place just two years earlier, we can calculate nicely the state of the entente cordiale then subsisting between our musical headliners and our political immortals. In September 1850, and before the eyes of all New York assembled in Castle Garden, Daniel Webster rose majestically from his seat and directed a profound bow to Jenny Lind, who on the stage had just complied with his request for an Alpine echo song. For better and for worse, this in a nutshell was the politico-aesthetic situation that Gottschalk faced the necessity of exploiting.

The initial omens were highly favorable. Hearing that Gottschalk's debut appearance was in progress at Niblo's Salon (or, as it was then styled, Niblo's Saloon), former President Martin Van Buren and his son deserted a performance of La Sonnambula at the adjacent opera house and joined the audience of the pianist-a pianist who in childhood, it may be recalled, had known Andrew Jackson. Later Millard Fillmore too became a Gottschalk ally, and after Secretary of State Seward brought him to Lincoln's attention, Gottschalk could congratulate himself on the most impressive Presidential fan club until the days of Paderewski.

Somebody who read the early omens with interest was Barnum, who after Gottschalk's second New York appearance offered him twenty thousand dollars for a season as a touring attraction. Recalling the fortune that "the great showman" had made for Lind, Gottschalk was probably tempted. But his father, who possessed a distaste for the vulgarity of Barnum's methods, was firmly against the idea, and the still dutiful son consequently rejected the proposed alliance.

Two weeks after his New York debut, meanwhile, Gottschalk made what were evidently some truly electrifying appearances in Philadelphia, which city flatly called him King of Pianists. Here he aroused his audiences to a fever of excitement with the first of his many paraphrases on American national airs. After Philadelphia, the reassured critics found the right words to use -a nd Gottschalk found the right pieces to play.

He began by playing his Afro-American pieces from the Paris period and some from the Spanish one. He discovered that although the American public was curious to hear pieces so famous, and in fact received them warmly enough, the critics by and large did not perceive their originality and were not at all concerned about their Americanism. What the critics liked, it turned out, was Jerusalem, Gottschalk's splurgy Grand Pantaisie for the Grand Duchess Anna, and Carnaval de Venice, a two-year-old and equally splurgy affair, sub-titled Grand Caprice and Variations, that he must have written simply because everybody else, in the 1850's, had a piece of that title on tap.

Since the Northern states lacked the treasury of traditional vernacular music that he was accustomed to raid, Gottschalk instinctively fell back on his considerable skill with national airs. He trotted out El Sitio de Zaragoza, refurbished it with Yankee Doodle, Hail, Columbia, and The Star-Spangled Banner, and found himself in business. He had struck a very rich vein, not only for his box-office receipts but, as it turned out later, for his imagination. Although much derided by a later age for his persistence in this direction, his instinct was correct, for he had a special faculty for seizing and exploiting the broadly representative character of these tunes as folk images. Although his early examples were somewhat Parson Weems-ish, he was later to treat these hackneyed materials with eloquence, humor, and at times a moving dignity.

It was also at this time that Gottschalk invented. or perhaps a better word is confected, what might be called his style pianola. This genre was also a calculated response to American taste, which liked sad titles, vox angelica melodies, pathetic barbershop harmony, thrilly tremolos. sweepy harp effects, and lots of runs on cue.  It is usually Gottschalk's style pianola that people have in mind when they talk loosely about his '"salon music" - and little wonder, for his success with it was outrageous, flooding the nation's parlors for decades to come  with richly packaged woe. Not a few of these pieces - mazurkas, polkas, galops, caprices - are completely shameless potboilers, whether of the tear-jerking variety or all too archly winsome.

But the surprising result of playing - not just reading - through a batch of them is the discovery of how much better they work, as individual pieces, than our cliche notion of them as a genre would lead us to expect. They are awfully well made pianistically, and even the worst of them are several cuts above the tons of shabby imitations they inspired. On its own heartfelt terms, at least one of them, The Last Hope, deserves to be called a masterpiece. And four or five more, if sympathetically presented, say at promenade concerts, might be rather more entertaining than Tiffany glass lampshades or period poster art.

In addition to his nationalistic pieces and his soulful chromos for the American home, Gottschalk in this period composed a considerable body of music that escapes both these categories simply by being first-rate. Some of it is so fine that its absence from the American concert repertory is a disgrace, a standing accusation of the intellectually pretentious taste that let it fall silent in the first place and has failed to revive it since.

Much of this music derives from Gottschalk's grateful discovery of the West Indies, particularly Cuba and Puerto Rico. El Cocoye, Souvenir de Porto Rico, and Danza are simply the best, not the only, piano pieces in this class. The Escenas campestres (Gottschalk called it a one-act opera; today it might be described as a sort of staged bucolic cantata) is full of sparkle and wit, and must be as much fun to sing as Rossini. And Gottschalk's first symphony, A Night in the Tropics, in addition to being a resounding joy in the ear, is unquestionably the chief evidence we have of America's participation in the real, not the counterfeited, Romantic tradition.

Gottschalk's best non-Antillean pieces in this period are The Banjo, Columbia, and Chant du soldat. The first two contain references to Stephen Foster favorites (The Banjo whirls up a marvellous quote of the tune we know as Camptown Races, and Columbia does some downright dazzling things with a curiously out-of-focus version of My Old Kentucky Home). The last piece - a set of variations, conceived as a rondo, that might be subtitled Scenes in the Life of the Common Soldier - is one of the most distinguished pieces Gottschalk ever wrote, its descriptive sentiment at no point compromising .the integrity of its form.

With the help of music so conceived, and by dint of a concert schedule that bordered on lunacy, Gottschalk met the American public on its own ground and conquered it. Within two years of his New York debut (in February, 1853), his pre-eminence with the consumers - and with American professionals competent to judge, such as William Mason, Richard Hoffman, and George Upton - was challenged only by the arrival of Sigismond Thalberg, who in Europe had divided honors with Liszt himself. Gottschalk and Thalberg discouraged any serious partisanship among their followers by joining forces for two-piano recitals, and the Anglo-American pianist Richard Hoffman remembered them forty years later as producing the greatest volume of tone he ever heard from a piano. Their great showpiece was a joint effort apparently conceived as the ultimate in two-virtuoso display, a Grand Duo di bravura on II Trovatore. Gottschalk subsequently toured this piece throughout the Americas, but its manuscript score, which was catalogued as late as 1880, has since disappeared, and like dozens of Gottschalk works that are well-documented in performance, it has never been published.

As Gottschalk became the much-courted rage of society in New York and Saratoga, the press respectfully discovered that he was both the staple and the star of metropolitan musical life. He became a cherished fixture of the New York scene, and his amatory legend now got down to American cases. His overt pursuit by society women, the married as well as the presumably virginal, became proverbial. One of his feminine admirers gives us a period snapshot of him as he walked Fifth Avenue on a winter's day: "As his graceful, elegant form was seen upon the avenue, sleigh after sleigh drove up, and the fair occupants desired him to drive with them; and many were the smiles, bows, and sighs wafted to him from pretty girls and stately matrons."

Gottschalk on such excursions must in truth have been something to see, especially when in the company of his old friend and then manager Vincent Wallace, a tall and portly Irishman who affected the style of a Southern planter, dressing entirely in white. In Paris Gottschalk had been, like his model Chopin, something of a dandy, appearing on stage for his performances wearing pale kid gloves (which he took his own good time removing, meanwhile inspecting his audience for pretty faces). His early portraits indicate that his silhouette was the one we know from the fashion sketches of Gavarni and the drawings by Constantin Guys of the young Paris boulevardiers: namely, a striking anticipation of the male Mod styles fashionable in the late 1960's, featuring fitted trousers, a pinched waist, a flaring coatskirt, and enormous lapels, all this being topped by an uncompromising stovepipe hat of the kind called a cylindre. To this ensemble Gottschalk had added in Spain a magnificent black cloak, and we may conclude that his appearance on Fifth Avenue (minus the hat) was decidedly Byronic.

Gottschalk's physical presence was the subject of frequent comment by those who reviewed his concerts. His face was narrow and delicately sharp-featured, with the striking pallor sometimes seen in dark-haired persons. In his earliest photographs, he seems in fact to resemble somewhat the young Proust, particularly in the dominant feature of his face, which was his eyes. Like Proust's, Gottschalk's eyes were large, brooding, and strangely hooded. Unexpectedly, Gottschalk's eyes were also bright blue, and reporters both male and female seem to have found their effect altogether hypnotic.

Curiously, even Gottschalk's male acquaintances regarded his vie galante with the indulgence usually reserved by women for matinee idols. It was at the height of his social success that Gottschalk conducted, without reportable censure, his affair with the actress-columnist Ada Clare. Ada was an aggressively emancipated feminist who, as the first "queen" of New York's bohemian circle, had friends like John Wilkes Booth, with whom she performed in the theater, and Walt Whitman, whose poetry she printed in her column. While pursuing Gottschalk, landing him, and becoming the mother of his natural son, Ada chronicled the entire episode concurrently in her newspaper, the New York Atlas. Later, after the conclusion of their affair, she elaborated at length in a harrowing novel called Only a Woman's Heart.

None of these developments seemed to cool Gottschalk's appeal for his numerous other admirers, among them Mrs. Mary Alice Ives Seymour, in girlhood a pupil of Gottschalk's and later the wife of an Episcopalian minister. Mrs. Seymour, calling herself Octavia Hensel, would eventually become Gottschalk's first and, to an exasperating degree, his mushiest biographer.

In 1856 Gottschalk began his long and warm professional association with the Patti family.  Salvatore Patti and his daughter, the wonderful child soprano Adelina, accompanied Gottschalk on his West Indian tours, with Adelina as the assisting vocalist at his concerts. In addition to composing a number of pieces designed to display her miraculous vocal powers, Gottschalk used Patti on occasion as a pianist in one of his many multiple-instrument showpieces (a work since lost to our view) for eight hands. Later, after Adelina had become an international Queen of Song, the other members of her family, including her sisters Carlotta and Amalia and her brother Carlo, were the stars of the little operatic troup that crossed the country with Gottschalk in his Civil War tours.

The operatic maestro of this venture was Emmanuele Muzio, the close friend and pupil of Verdi, a circumstance that may have had some bearing on a curious development years later when Muzio produced the Cairo premiere of Aida. Certain critics at once detected in this opera the influence of Gounod, others that of Wagner. But Filippo Filippi, the dean of the Italian critical sector, declared that the spectacular second act finale reminded him of "the American Gottschalk." What he probably had in mind was Gottschalk's demonstrated mastery of musical exoticism, plus perhaps a certain operatic grandiosity that may be examined in such piano pieces as Apotheose, Grande Marche solenelle and Grand Pantaisie triomphale sur l'hymne national bresilien.

In the West Indies, Gottschalk enjoyed an intoxicating sense of well-being, of self-realization humanly, that eventually disrupted his career in the United States. His sensuous nature responded ardently to the people, the manners, and the landscape of the tropics, and he felt also an almost occult attraction to the legendary homeland of his mother's family (landed nobility of the governing order, most of whom were massacred in the slave insurrections in Santo Domingo in the 1790's).

In these latitudes, moreover, Gottschalk awoke a massive and peculiarly sympathetic popular response in audiences that could not get enough of him. He also formed warm and lasting friendships with professional men, musical and otherwise, who accepted his aesthetic and intellectual leadership. For performances with Arthur Napoleao, the brilliant young Portuguese pianist, Gottschalk wrote some of his most effective two-piano music. Next to Berlioz, Nicolas Ruiz Espadero, the distinguished Cuban pianist-composer (and the teacher of Ignacio Cervantes), was probably the most faithful Gottschalkian that the composer ever knew. After Gottschalk's death, Espadero edited numbers of his unpublished piano pieces and preserved the scores of others, along with vocal and orchestral works that the United States first heard in the year 1969.

Most importantly, Gottschalk now tapped at its source, primarily in Cuba and Puerto Rico, the vital Afro-Hispanic musical vein that would nourish his best realized and most engaging works. Contact with West Indian earth seemed also to double his performing energies, and he now began to organize the oversized and operatically oriented concerts with which Latin America has since associated his name. For these spectacular projects (Gottschalk compared their scale and their cost in personal effort to the production of a Meyerbeer opera), he used huge orchestral and vocal forces plus military bands, in the manner of Berlioz, and to these he sometimes added batteries of pianos and native percussion. "My orchestra," he says of a concert in Havana's Grand Tacon Theater, "consisted of six hundred and fifty performers, eighty-seven choristers, fifteen solo singers, fifty drums, and eighty trumpets - that is to say, nearly nine hundred persons bellowing and blowing to see who could scream the loudest. The violins alone were seventy in number, contrabasses eleven, violincellos eleven!"

Gottschalk was certainly the first to exploit Cuban percussion in concert music (he was probably the only serious composer then living who was capable of registering the West Indian jazz prototype accurately) and his use of it was both masterly and authentic. His first symphony, A Night in the Tropics, is scored for a large orchestra amplified by a wind band (it calls for the big E-flat trumpet and the ophicleide), and is further augmented by African drums (bamboulas). For the second movement of this symphony - a gay, glittering, and sumptuous fiesta, in which the full orchestra abandons itself to irresistible cinquillo syncopation above habanera rhythms in the percussion - Gottschalk secured the services of the King of the Cabildo of French Negroes, who came from Santiago de Cuba for the premiere with a battery of bamboulas and other native percussion.

The Hiatus 1860-1862

At the full tide of his Antillean success, Gottschalk in effect disappeared. Lost to United States view in the West Indian back country, he perversely gave the better part of three years to self-indulgent idleness and neglect of his career. From time to time the newspapers in various countries reported his death. Without concern he wandered from island to island, an unregenerate amatory nomad "indolently permitting myself to be carried away by chance," as he remarks in his journal, "giving a concert wherever I found a piano, sleeping wherever the night overtook me .... "

Later, after his return to the United States during the Civil War, he explained with pulverizing candor:
"I again began to live according to the customs of those primitive countries, which, if they are not strictly virtuous, are nonetheless terribly attractive. I saw again those beautiful triguenas, with red lips and brown bosoms, ignorant of evil, sinning with frankness, without fearing the bitterness of remorse .... The moralists, I well know, condemn all this, and they are right. But poetry is often in antagonism with virtue; and now that I am shivering under the icy wind and grey sky of the north, now that I hear discussions on Erie, Prairie du Chien, Harlem, and Cumberland, now that I read in the newspapers the lists of dead and wounded, the devastation of incendiaries, the abductions and assassinations that are committed on both sides under the name of retaliation, I find myself excusing the demisavages of the savannas who prefer their poetic barbarism to our barbarous progress."

While doing, as you might say, the West Indies, Gottschalk wound up living - with his piano, on which he improvised by moonlight - near the crater of an extinct volcano, Mount Matouba in Guadaloupe, where the terrace of his villa commanded a magnificent view much resembling the celebrated painting The Heart of the Andes by his friend Frederick Edwin Church. Here Gottschalk's only companion was an educated but deranged mulatto, Firman Moras, whose mind was unbalanced, in Gottschalk's opinion, by the brutal racial subjection that denied him the reward of his abilities. Moras responded to Gottschalk's friendship by recovering his sanity and becoming, for the balance of the composer's life, his devoted factotum and inseparable traveling companion.

In 1862, the depleted state of Gottschalk's finances - plus an access of guilty dissatisfaction with his irresponsible existence - reawakened his ambition. He resumed composing and concertizing, corresponded with his publishers, and picked up the threads of his social life. As he renewed his contact with current affairs, he noted with growing resentment the gratification with which the apologists of authoritarian government - many of his friends in Havana were nationals of European countries viewed the signs of violent internal division in the United States. Democracy was a very fine ideal, they told him complacently, but impractical - Utopian. It was obvious to Gottschalk that the collapse of the Union was their private hope, and for the first time in his life he felt himself impelled toward a public political commitment.

Reappearance in the United States 1862-1865

After identifying himself officially with the Union cause, Gottschalk plunged into concertizing in the North on what presently proved to be a continental scale. Thanks to his grim disregard for his ennui, his fatigue, the cold ("When I see snow, I see death ... "), and the general resistance of the American frontier to culture, Gottschalk now established himself, from Washington to Montreal and from New York to San Francisco, as the dominant musical figure of the Civil War era.

Two concerts a day had long been a commonplace for him, and now he sometimes managed, thanks to his profound study of railroad timetables, to give three:
"I live on the railroad - my home is somewhere between the baggage car and the last car of the train .... All notions of time and space are effaced from my mind. Just like the drunkard who, when asked the distance between the Chausee-d' Antin and the Porte St. Denis, replied, "ten small glasses." If you ask me what time it is, I will reply, "It is time to close my trunk" or "Is it time to play The Banjo" or "It is time to put on my black coat.""

He spends so much time riding on trains that when he falls asleep in his hotel room, he dreams that he is riding on trains. "The railroad conductors," he says plaintively, "salute me as one of the employees."

He notes in his journal in December, 1862: "I have just finished (it is hardly two hours since I have arrived in New York) my last tour of concerts for this season. I have given eighty-five concerts in four months and a half. I have travelled fifteen thousand miles by train."

An entry in February, 1864: "Concert at New York. Crowded. It is the ninety-fifth or ninety-sixth concert that I have given in the city of New York within the last year and a half, without counting at least one hundred and fifty that I gave before my voyage to the Antilles."

In the summer of 1864, he sends a correction to the press: "In the paragraph extracted from my last letter to the Home Journal the editor committed an error that many of the other papers reproduced and that I wish to rectify. 'Gottschalk, it is said, has given in the United States nearly one thousand concerts and has travelled by rail and steamboat nearly eight thousand miles.'" After some humorous observations, Gottschalk adds, "But it is eighty thousand miles I have travelled in less than two years, giving, on an average, three concerts every two days."

The critics now remarked that in his absence his art had matured, and that his popular appeal had, if anything, increased. Not uncommonly he now aroused his audiences to emotional demonstrations, sometimes with earlier works that had become hits during his absence (like The Last Hope), or with unfamiliar works composed during his West Indian vacation, but more often with new works, related to the war, that he developed from American vernacular sources-particularly an extraordinary battlepiece called The Union (it is discussed, with The Last Hope, later in this essay), and Le Cri de delivrance, an effort in the same direction that has exciting moments but is less imaginative and fumbles the required epic posture.

As the war continued, Gottschalk became as much a social lion in Washington, where he concertized frequently, as he continued to be in New York. For this there were other than musical reasons. As a celebrated raconteur (and as the real-life hero of an amatory saga as lively as any he could relate), Gottschalk was a treasured after-dinner asset to the sneakily rebellious forces of upper-class male conviviality, and his admiring and highly placed cronies were scattered throughout the diplomatic services and the military establishments of half a dozen nations.

In his journal for 1862 we read, "My first concert at Washington given-great success. Audience varied! diplomats, generals, etc. In the first row I recognized General Herron, my old friend from New Granada." And on a later occasion:

At Washington I had the whole diplomatic corps at my concert. They were all placed together in the front rows of orchestra seats: Count Mercier, French minister; His Excellency M. de Tassera, a distinguished poet, Spanish minister; Baron Stockel, Russian minister; Mr. Blondel, Belgian minister; Chevalier Bertinati, Italian minister .... The idea came into my mind to salute each of the gentlemen by playing to him the national air of the country he represented .... I had the pleasure of seeing all these official countenances brighten as fast as appeared "Partant pour la Syrie," "La Marcha real," "Garibaldi's hymn," "God Save the Czar." Not knowing the Belgian hymn, I was satisfied by playing Blondel's air, "O Richard, o mon roi" [from Gretry's opera Richard Coeur de Lion], as counterpoint to "Partant pour la Syrie." Mr. Blondel, the minister of Leopold - I was about to say the minstrel - whose taste for art renders his mansion the rendezvous of all the artists who visit Washington, found my impromptu to his taste and rewarded me with some beautiful verses, which I intend to set to music.

Escape and Finale 1865-1869

As the war neared its end, Gottschalk carried his campaign, as did many performers, to California. He could scarcely have predicted the warmth of his welcome or the taste of Californians. It was comprehensible that Le Cri de delivrance would drive them crazy (it is a paraphrase on George F. Root's Battle Cry of Freedom). But who could have expected them to develop a total addiction to The Dying Poet? - a piece in the style pianola at its most lugubrious. There was, however, no doubting the approval of his audiences. In San Francisco Gottschalk had to dodge the gold and silver coins they hurled at the stage. In addition, he became, to an even greater degree than he was accustomed, the instant lion of the Gold Rush aristocracy, who perhaps had few enough occasions to demonstrate their own social graces to a polished international celebrity. In San Francisco, concert followed triumphant concert, and in the outlands he reached even Virginia City, Nevada.

Here the picture suddenly changed: all was desolation, meanness, apathy. His audiences heard him, he says, with a "curious and vacant air .... exactly as if I was speaking Chinese." He became ill, and his mortal enemy, his ennui, tormented him into the bitterest outburst known of him:

"I cannot recollect in fifteen years of travels and vicissitudes having passed eleven days so sadly as here. I defy your finding in the whole of Europe a village where an artist of reputation would find himself as isolated as I have been here. If in place of playing the piano, of having composed two or three hundred pieces, of having given seven or eight thousand concerts, of having given to the poor one hundred or one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, of having been knighted twice, I had sold for ten years quarters of salted hog, or had made a great fortune by selling dear what I had bought cheap,my poor isolated chamber would have been invaded by adorers and admirers. Decidedly the country of money is not the one of artists. "Muse, etendez vas ailes et fuyez au plus vite.""

Back in San Francisco, adorers and admirers awaited him in plenty. The great of the city presented him with a gold medal nine inches in circumference crusted with diamonds and rubies, and the newspapers rose to the occasion with a paean for Gottschalk and a plug for the home town:

"This present is worthy of a monarch, and it appertained to the Queen City of the Pacific to present to the first musician of America a testimony which was at the same time worthy of the artist and in harmony with the magnificent generosity and the marvelous development of the modern El Dorado."

The next news of Gottschalk was heard from coast to coast - a nationally reported scandal involving him with a young San Francisco girl of family, a student at the Oakland Female Seminary. Hastily spirited aboard ship under cover of darkness to escape vigilantes, Gottschalk had left the United States. It is certain that Gottschalk had enemies in San Francisco, among them a hostile impresario noted for his ruthlessness, and it is obvious that the storm of abuse that howled there in the newspapers was motivated and viciously slanderous. But three facts were unhappily not to be denied. Gottschalk had spent several hours with the girl unchaperoned. She was late returning to her Seminary. The third and most damaging fact was that Gottschalk had fled.

The ship on which, to his mortification, he found himself was bound for South America, and there Gottschalk spent his last years. Good and influential friends in the United States urged him to defend himself, to return and bring suit for slander. He declined to do so. Spirited defenses of him were published, as well as letters of his own concerning the matter. The response was favorable to Gottschalk, and as time passed, his old manager, Max Strakosch, probably had sound enough reasons for his belief that vindication and greater success than ever awaited his return to the United States.

But Gottschalk chose to remain away. It was almost as if he preferred exile, and in his journal there are certain clues to his behavior. It seems evident that, as he neared forty, Gottschalk was increasingly vulnerable to the charms of immature girls. The ordinary pathology of this preference is well known and simple: young girls are not only pretty but presumptively less critical than older women, and Gottschalk never began a concert in his adult life without scanning his audience for them - "faces to make one play wrong notes," as he repeatedly calls them.

Just a month to the day after his San Franciscan misadventure, Gottschalk's confidences in his journal are scarcely those to be expected of a chastened culprit on the one hand or a maligned saint on the other: "There was opposite my hotel in Panama a little Indian girl, with large black eyes, and coarse hair that scarcely yielded to the restraint of a large gold comb. A supple figure, beautiful yellow-bronze round shoulders, naked or nearly so - her dress being very light and open on her bosom. She is a seamstress at the dressmaker's. I have never spoken to her. She has a very wild and timid look - only sixteen years old." But a moment later we discover that Gottschalk had spoken to her, and that she fled in fright, leaving him much put out and sighing.

For roughly three years, Gottschalk concertized in Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. His success can only be called triumphant, but from time to time he suffered bouts of acute depression, betraying in his journal a sense of defeat and a growing indifference to life.

His interests revived with his indignation as he observed the frightful poverty, illiteracy, and social brutality that were endemic under the bloody military dictatorships common to the time (he makes an angry list of the worst of them) and that were generally compounded by a corrupt church. Under the persuasion of Luis Ricardo Fors, an admiring young Spanish journalist exiled from Spain for his republican opinions, Gottschalk began to write and lecture, with considerable passion and force, on the advantages of democracy as practiced in the United States.  Simultaneously Gottschalk began to plan the rehabilitation of his larger career, and despite failing health he threw himself into all these projects with desperate energy. It was his hope to return to Paris, by way of concert tours in Italy and England, bearing impressive evidence of current success and artistic self-realization. He now composed, as a tribute to Montevideo, his second symphony, an imposing one-movement work with obvious political implications, reconciling Uruguayan airs with those of the United States. His Gran Tarantella, a big, exuberant piece for piano and orchestra (again, the first such by an American), produced what L'Art musical in 1868 called "fanatisme," explaining that the elegant women of Montevideo were wearing locks of his hair in little gold reliquaries. Gottschalk resumed work on his two full-scale operas, Isaura di Salerno and Charles IX.

In Uruguay and particularly in Brazil, where he had the friendship and open-handed patronage of the Emperor, Dom Pedro II, Gottschalk organized and conducted monster "festivals," mobilizing the entire musical community as performers and including the military musicians placed under his direction by the Emperor. As produced with great care for theatrical effect on the stages of the national operas (where the curtains sometimes parted to reveal thirty performers seated at fifteen grand pianos, with Gottschalk conducting from a sixteenth), these grandiose ventures revealed to South America for the first time the wealth of its musical potential. In the press, Gottschalk was now the eponymous hero of his art, designated simply as "O divino pianista" or "the great artist." In the professional community he would be venerated for generations as a founding father of South American music and even as a chef d'ecole of the Latin American idiom.

In 1869, ignoring a series of serious illnesses, Gottschalk committed a kind of suicide by overwork combined, as seems probable, with sexual intemperance. He died at the age of forty in Tijuca, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. Although his autopsy revealed the cause of death to be what would later be identified as peritonitis, rumor in the United States revived the scandalous aspects of his career and attributed his end to assassination by an amatory rival. No real evidence supported this belief, but a century later it would be almost the only thing about Gottschalk remembered in United States musical circles.

Gottschalk's remains were brought to the United States in 1870 and interred in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. His family erected above his grave an elaborate monument, an angel of white marble bearing a lyre and a book. On the pages of the book were engraved the titles of six Gottschalk pieces-a selection that might be called, as representing the American taste of the time, the first published critical list of his work:

    Bananier                   Marche de Nuit
    Last Hope                 Dernier Amour
    Murmures Eoliens     Morte!!

Even conceding the importance of Le Bananier, the list contains none of Gottschalk's best music. Marche de nuit and Murmures eoliens are later developments of the Ossianic vein in which Gottschalk felicitated the Grand Duchess Anna.  Morte!!, written in the last year of Gottschalk's life, is a calculated tear-jerker in the style pianola for the South American market, a lugubrious pendant to The Last Hope. The only reference to the marvelous Cuban pieces is Dernier Amour, which has tresillo and habanera rhythms. And Le Bananier itself was not included, we may be sure, as calling attention to the world's first composer of Afro-American music, but as being Gottschalk's first great European hit and the foundation of his family's prosperity.

Today the angel, the lyre, and the book have vanished from Gottschalk's grave. Only the pedestal remains, and an all but indecipherable name.

New Frame for an Old Daguerreotype

Even though the year 1969 is the centenary of the composer's death, it is not exactly the moment one would have expected a much-changed world to retrieve his stylistically rather special music from a hundred years of near oblivion. Yet the present publication of his piano works, which are collected for the first time anywhere in the following pages, may prove to be timelier than the historical clock would suggest. It brings Gottschalk unabridged to the attention of a new generation profoundly concerned with matters of feeling, self-expression, and personalized style - a musically omnivorous, do-your-own-thing generation, more specifically, one that regards the calcified musicological prejudices of the late nineteenth century with considerable skepticism.

In our inspection of the full Gottschalk panorama, we can now identify without dismay, and perhaps with much profit, those equivocal elements long held responsible for the composer's vast initial popularity and his subsequent neglect. Some of the more obvious of these elements were the subject of pointed comment both by the composer and his critics. It has always been perfectly clear to everybody that the Gottschalk sound in general is a sentimental metaphor. Even when the sentiment is handled with elegance and irony, which it often is, it evokes, and is meant to evoke, extra-musical associations - a process refreshingly deficient in the kind of space-age braininess that today clutters our most fashionable and least attended concerts.

"Music," Gottschalk remarks in his journal, "is a thing eminently sensuous. Certain combinations move us, not because they are ingenious, but because they move our nervous systems in a certain way. I have a horror of musical Puritans. They are arid natures, deprived of sensibility, generally hypocrites, incapable of understanding two phrases in music."

The acid in that passage is of course Gottschalk's reply to the New England Transcendentalists who were always complaining that he wrote like Gottschalk instead of like Beethoven. Their animus rankled, especially when Gottschalk knew he was being wicked, and he remarks elsewhere, by way of justifying his self-indulgence in the West Indies, that "life in the tropics, in the midst of a half-civilized and voluptuous race, cannot be that of .... an American Presbyterian."

Yet ultimately his musical disposition derived from something more personal, more complex, than either his much-discussed "tropical nature" or what was usually assumed, in Presbyterian quarters, to be his French frivolity. There are indications that some sounds had an almost hallucinogenic effect upon him. "A certain chord," he notes, "produces on my nerve of hearing a sensation analogous to that which the heliotrope produces on my sense of smell and the pineapple on my sense of taste."

He writes a long and detailed essay to prove that music is at once a physical, a moral, and a "complex" agent. Physical: "In Switzerland I excited at will - in a poor child afflicted with a frightful nervous malady - hysterical and cataleptic crises, by playing in the key of E-flat minor." Moral: "Music awakens in us reminiscences, memories, associations." Complex: "The Negroes charm snakes by whistling to them. It is said that fawns permit themselves to be captured by a pretty voice: the pipe tames bears; in the Antilles and South America lizards are hunted with the whistle; spiders have been seen not to leave a fiddler." And he concludes that music "addresses itself to a mysterious agent within us which is superior to the intelligence, being independent of it, and makes us feel what it can neither conceive nor explain."

Today we investigate the properties of music in less earthy regions and less picturesque language, and our conclusions are somewhat less useful in explaining Gottschalk than his own are. A pianistic effect not unrelated to his "physical agent" views - we would call it "visceral response" - may be noted in Gottschalk's use of the high treble register. Even his admirers thought he used it excessively, and the reason for their dismay was that he does not use it coloristically - as we hear it used in Chopin and Liszt, veiled by the pedal's harmonics - but for the steeliest kind of linear exposition, a kind of glitteringly bold black-and-white line drawing. Noting that "critics reproached him with writing his fine embroideries, his delicate arabesques, in very sharp octaves of the piano," Marmontel observes that "many of the compositions of Gottschalk favor by the rhythm and the nature of the ideas these effects of shrill sonorousness, which scintillate .... like a jet of electric fire."

What with the piano's upper keyboard being the region most visible to the customers, high treble virtuosity is also a time-honored means of wowing your audience. Gottschalk's use of this device may be examined in a score of pieces in these volumes, but it is nowhere more contagiously "physical" than in the climax of Pasquinade, where the left hand plays a swinging Franco-Afro-American gavotte (no less) and the pulsing right hand releases repeated jets of Marmontel's "electric fire."

An important aspect of Gottschalk's "moral agent" notions ("reminiscences, memories, associations") is to be noted in his choice of subject matter. Like any other respectable Romantic, Gottschalk was basically a landscape painter. Sometimes the landscape he reported was external and almost touristic, a kind of apotheosized travel scenery - and Gottschalk was, with Glinka and Chopin, among the first to paint national or ethnic landscape in serious concert music. Some of his essays in this genre are as convincing as any on record - the early Afro-American pieces, or Souvenir de Puerto Rico, or the Cuban Danza. Almost as good are the Spanish things - including, even though it is a sort of gorgeous postcard to American stay-at-homes, Minuit a Seville.

At other times Gottschalk's landscape was interior and psychological - seldom as deeply introspective as its European equivalents, but in any case instantly recognizable for what it was by his contemporaries. As befitted an American caught between two cultures, Gottschalk's stock in trade was nostalgia, which became especially thick when he got to brooding over what he thought of, even in his twenties, as his vanished youth. This is the mood that gave us Reflets du passe, Jeunesse, La Melancolie, and in a related vein, Fantome de bonheur.  Printemps d'amour seems to be a belatedly published souvenir of the onset of his affair with Ada Clare.

Sometimes the nostalgia was for the landscapes of literature, in particular Macpherson's stormy Ossianic poems, which in the 1850's were required reading for anybody with the slightest pretensions to a soul: Gottschalk's first Ossianic piece (Ossian: Deux Ballades) was written in 1846, his last (Murmures eoliens) about 1860, and there were others between - including one, since lost, entitled Le Lai du dernier menestrel. One of the best of this genre is Marche de nuit, which when new had an unfailingly galvanizing effect on audiences that did not consider it beneath their dignity to enjoy a kind of heroic Celtic soap opera.

When Gottschalk's literary nostalgia coincided with his personal melancholy, he produced what even his more critical listeners considered a masterpiece: Ricordati is Gottschalk's contribution to the mid-century Dante revival that also engulfed Berlioz and Liszt. It carries a superscription from the Inferno, and in it Gottschalk weeps, not without a certain nobility, for those who are tormented in present misery by recollections of a past happiness.

Frequently Gottschalk's gift for reportage is excited by sheer topicality, and this is likely to engage his considerable gifts as a comedian. When this happens we get the most amusing kind of pianistic fun and games. In Cuba he composed a number of pieces (unhappily since lost) on some frankly scandalous songs, including a reported humdinger titled Maria La O. The lady in question is a bawdy legend, the eponymous heroine of Cuba's more luxurious bordellos for upwards of a century.

On the other hand, Tournament Galop, as Eugene List has noted, is certainly Gottschalk's sketch of a band concert. As a social note, it is both accurate and hilarious, and anybody with even a drop of McKinley-era blood in his veins will know at once that the band is forever playing on a Sunday afternoon, and in a leafy park, and just as probably in Newport or Saratoga as in Sheboygan. Likewise journalistically topical is L'Extase (Pensee poetique), which commemorates a balloon ascension that Gottschalk made over Congo Square in New Orleans in 1855. On this flight his sense of out-of-this-world exaltation was so great that he returned to earth announcing that he meant to go aloft again, this time taking along a harmonium on which to improvise. There is no record that he did so, but a year later he composed what is certainly the first music known for the Aeronautical Age.

Topicality in the 1860's also meant pointed references to the military, which with Gottschalk are frequent. He knew well a quantity of generals, among them the Venezuelan General-President-Dictator Antonio Paez, the old comrade in arms of Bolivar, who commissioned him to write a festival march for military band entitled The Battle of Carabova. Then, in addition to several military pieces that have been lost, there are Bataille (a lively but not very alarming engagement); Chant du soldat; the big Civil War pieces, The Union and Le Cri de delivrance; and even a Military Polka (also titled Drums and Cannon) that Gottschalk published under the pseudonym of Oscar Litti. The dedication of The Union to General McClellan and Hurrah Galop to General Grant is not without point, for Gottschalk was a partisan of the former.

Polkas, mazurkas, and galops were of course mandatory in that day, and Gottschalk wrote numbers of them. In Ses Yeux he may just possibly have created the most quintessential polka ever written. The reader will also note in these volumes some dozens of pieces titled, or subtitled, Caprice. The term has no discoverable formal significance, and it seems to have been used loosely for what was then thought of as a "character piece" - an essay "in the style of" this, that, or the other. The outer limit in some kind of tortuous incongruity is reached in the title Chant du martyr, Grand-Caprice religieux, which almost unavoidably suggests light background music for the burning of early Christians.

Today we can only speculate about the private criteria that Gottschalk applied to his work, not only as regards its various stylistic categories but its musical value. It is certain that he entertained such judgments, and often quite sardonic ones; he remarks of his big South American hit Morte!!, for example, that it is "neither better nor worse than old Last Hope." And for some years he declined to publish certain pieces under his real name, the nationally commiserated Dying Poet being a case in point. A comprehensive list of his works printed in 1863 relegates to an unspecific portmanteau entry "a large number of easier teaching pieces published under the pseudonyms of A. B. C., of Oscar Litti, of Paul Ernest, and Seven Octaves." Gottschalk acknowledged his pseudonyms in his intimate correspondence as early as 1859, but the 1863 listing appears to be his first public mention of them. Doubtless his publishers found occasion to remind him that it was the name Gottschalk that sold sheet music, and by 1863 the pseudonyms had presumably made their point.

The point has been all but obliterated by time.

Today The Maiden's Blush by Oscar Litti would fool nobody acquainted with its period - not for a moment. It is an unpretentious and perfectly delightful little genre piece and it sounds just like Gottschalk. So, at the other end of his spectrum, does the grandly soaring trumpet melody of La Nuit des tropiques, which in addition to being a noble tune is one of the best American statements extant of the early Romantic credo, and the only one we have in music.

But Gottschalk's average, his virtues heard cheek by jowl with his vices, is in fact rather more interesting than either of those extremes. And his average is distilled in two piano pieces that are deeply entwined with the sentimental history of the Civil War. For many thousands of Americans, The Last Hope and The Union gave voice, respectively, to the lyric and the epic moods of that ordeal, and did so with greater eloquence than any other music they knew.

Musicologists have tended to dismiss The Last Hope - a sad piece of a curiously exalted character with yearning chromatic harmony and extremely elegant treble figurations - as a crassly sentimental potboiler meriting no further discussion. It is true that Gottschalk wrote it to make money - this in 1854, when he added his father's considerable debts and the support of a large family to his other responsibilities. Deliberately selecting a theme related to death (as the most readily marketed commodity in nineteenth-century music), Gottschalk wrote a piece that fell well within the emotional and technical competence of almost any moony young woman - or of "1 and 999,999 other American girls," as Amy Fay put it. Miss Fay, when she wrote that, was our pioneer girl piano student in Germany, and the phrase summarizes the seduction of her entire generation by Gottschalk's pre-Wagnerian Liebestod.

These circumstances explain the genesis of The Last Hope but not its method. The piece is actually an exquisitely calculated feat of moralizing ventriloquism-a pious theatrical turn in which the views expressed are not necessarily those of the author. Its intention is to raise our hearts above this vale of tears by fixing our blurred gaze firmly on a consolatory vision every bit as murky as the theophany of Parsifal. But it does this so stylishly, and in quasi-religious terms so acceptable to the Protestant gentility of its age, that it may be imagined as describing, simultaneously, the majestic self-commiseration of Queen Victoria after Albert's demise and the pathetic fortitude of poor, doomed Beth in Little Women. It takes more than a willingness to cheapen your art to grab so inclusive a chunk of the Zeitgeist. What is called for is a steady hand and a fund of irony, and there is evidence that Gottschalk viewed his numerous mortuary pieces with precisely this kind of detachment.

In any case, The Last Hope became something more than a mortgage-lifter. During the Civil War it was a nonpartisan national institution. Known as "Gottschalk's evening hymn," it became an emotionally therapeutic vesper rite from Boston to New Orleans. The effect in wartime of sad songs - Tenting Tonight, for example, or The Vacant Chair - is readily predictable. But The Last Hope is certainly the only instrumental piece that systematically, in the North and South alike, assembled the female half of the nation around the parlor piano for a good cry.

With The Union, Gottschalk wrote a battle-horse of another color. A magnificently rabble-rousing paraphrase on national airs, this piece contains not a trace of irony, which is perhaps its chief defect. It is as much a tour de force of impassioned forensic oratory as anything by Daniel Webster.

The two strengths of The Union are its idiomatic naturalness as a piano piece, an area in which Gottschalk was absolutely first-rate, and the heat and obvious sincerity of its taken-from-real-life sentiment. Its weaknesses are its formal substructure, which is improvisational - or, rather, adventitious - and a lack of the detachment that turns sentiment into something cooler and profounder .

The Union begins with a thunderous onslaught of cannon sound, a piano-shaking uproar that proves, upon inspection, to be much more inventive, not to say more fun, than others in its special genre. Keyboard battle-pieces had come into their own with the perfection of the piano's high-tension bass strings, and many nineteenth-century examples were published with special instructions covering the firing of the artillery: "The cannon shots are to be expressed by the flat of the left hand upon the lowest portion of the bass, all at once, loud .... "

As Gottschalk knew from observation, the resulting thwack is not remotely like the sound of artillery, which is a prolonged turbulence of sound. In The Union, therefore, this amateurish device is replaced with a muscular virtuoso rumble of interlocking octaves, these being interspersed with explosive chords, so that Gottschalk's bombardment not only erupts fearfully but seems to score several direct hits. The piece is far from easy to play, and it is obvious that the maidenly market of The Last Hope was the furthest thing from its composer's mind. After its cannonade, the piece proceeds with the least expected and probably the most imaginative arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner in existence - an uncanny evocation, hauntingly harmonized, of the numbed hush that falls on a battlefield when the guns stop. Considering the broad popular associations of this tune, the use Gottschalk makes of it is remarkably personal and poetic, for it sheds all traces of its public character. Here it has the private solemnity, the loneliness, and some of the virile sweetness of a bugle playing Taps, and the effect is both arresting and momentarily disturbing, like certain too-intimate lines of Whitman's.

Then the piece winds up with a rambunctious contrapuntal free-for-all of Hail, Columbia and Yankee Doodle heard simultaneously. Flags fly, the Marines land, the U. S. Cavalry comes over the hill, and the audience is goaded to cheers by what, according to the awed critic of the St. Louis Republican, writing in 1862, is "an extraordinary imitation of the drum - an effect the cause of which we can hardly venture to guess."

The historical matrix that engendered The Union endured less long than the veterans of the conflict that piece commemorates. In the 1860's, it seemed only fitting to Americans that their struggle should be celebrated by an American composer using American tunes. But just thirty years later, in the euphoric heyday of William McKinley, Dvorak startled American composers no end when he advised them to forget Europe (meaning Germany) and to cultivate their own back yard. At the turn of the century, the patriotic energies of The Union were already becoming obsolete, and the rhetoric of its flamboyant epic style sounded as dated as John C. Calhoun's. In some quarters today the piece is considered, even at its Fourth-of-July best, to be little more than an amusingly opportunistic period oddity.

But The Union escapes this definition on two important counts. Aside from the musicological fact that its coupure is prophetic of Charles Ives (it was written twelve years before Ives was born), the piece retains a nostalgic power to stir forgotten and old-fashioned emotions. Its roots were nourished by the kind of moral convictions, and the kind of reportorial realism, that dignified our best Civil War statuary. It moves us, despite certain quaintnesses, like the solitary soldier that still stands guard in the small-town squares of rural America.

Gottschalk knew and often denounced the evils of slavery (he had freed his own slaves in 1854 upon inheriting them). He also knew war. During his youth in Paris he wrote a Mass within earshot of the February Revolution, noting that the carnage made of the city "a vast slaughter-house." Beginning in 1862, he routinely traveled to his front-line concert dates on trains full of soldiers, including the dying and the dead. Sometimes, smoking his cigar in the solitude of the baggage car, he brooded beside the crude pine coffins of young men taking their last ride home.

On the evening of March 24, 1864, Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, brought the President and Mrs. Lincoln to hear Gottschalk play The Union. After the concert Gottschalk was angry with himself, feeling he had played it badly. Thirteen months later he played the piece for Mr. Lincoln again, this time in a memorial concert for the assassinated President that Gottschalk organized aboard the steamer Constitution, under way for California.

''Where are now," he asks his journal afterwards, "those frivolous judgements on the man whom we are weeping for today? Yesterday his detractors were ridiculing his large hands without gloves, his large feet, his bluntness; today this type we found grotesque appears to us on the threshold of immortality, and we understand by the universality of our grief what future generations will see in him."

It was in this perspective that The Union served, perhaps not unworthily, as Lincoln's first epitaph. Today its rediscovery gives it another usefulness in a perspective of its own. Like few documents in our history, The Union speaks for the boisterous, tender, awkward, visionary, and all but forgotten America that Lincoln bereaved.

As a document of our concert life, moreover, The Union shares with The Banjo, La Savane, Pasquinade, and some dozens of other Gottschalk works certain unsuspected assets. Today Gottschalk's musical language interests us on more than one level. To the first ears that heard them, these pieces were primarily entertainment, and although they are in 1969 no less entertaining - in concert and on recordings a number of distinguished pianists have delighted audiences with them in the last decade - they now disclose a kind of stylistic news that was largely lost on Gottschalk's contemporaries. It was as an exploitation of American folklore that these pieces began, but it is as examples of a personal and highly finished style that they survive and continue to work in performance.  

Unlike literary language, musical speech often expands its resources by giving new currency to the stylistic usages of the past. So Bach did with Frescobaldi and Pachelbel; so Stravinsky with Pergolesi and Tchaikovsky. We are permitted to hope that somewhere awaiting these volumes is a young American composer, also much ahead of his time, who shall be the first to give us in the musical speech of our own day a long overdue Hommage a Gottschalk, Grand Caprice americain.

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