Gottschalk and Cuba is a journey through 100 years of music that started with a 19th Century American pianist-composer visiting Havana and a 21st Century Cuban pianist who came to America telling the story.
New Orleans born Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) was one of the most astonishing keyboard virtuosos in 19th Century America. But he was much more than that. He was America’s first important pianist-composer. He was an extraordinary traveler, bringing his virtuosity to Europe, and to Central and South America and to the Caribbean, where he lived in Cuba for extended periods. As a composer, his unique style combined his Creole musical heritage with American, Latin American and Afro-Caribbean influences he absorbed during his travels—all expressed within the boundaries of classical piano writing prevalent in the 19th Century. Gottschalk made friends wherever he traveled and these far-reaching connections are the subject of my newest project, Gottschalk and Cuba.
This is a World Premiere recording of the entire Nuit des Tropiques, Symphony Romantique, both movements, on one piano.
The program features my transcription for solo piano of the second movement (Fiesta Criolla) of Gottschalk’s monumental Nuit des Tropiques, (Night in the Tropics), a symphony Gottschalk completed on the Island of Martinique, and the world premiere took place in Havana in February 1860. It is a historic work because it is the first symphony written by an American composer. After Gottschalk’s death, his friend Nicolas Ruiz Espadero published a two piano version of this symphony which is the basis for my transcription. My research made it clear that Gottschalk’s several sojourns in Cuba during the years 1854 to 1862, had a pre-eminent influence in the musical culture of Cuba for several succeeding generations. And also the profound influence Cuban music had on Gottschalk. The well-known Cuban composers whose works will be on this CD all have connections to Gottschalk in one way or another.
Most of this connected music is being recorded for the first time.
The previously mentioned Espadero, who studied with Julian Fontana, Chopin’s lifelong friend and copyist, became the authorized publisher of Gottschalk’s posthumous works. Fontana composed works in the Cuban/Gottschalk style, and Gottschalk dedicated several compositions to him. Ignacio Cervantes studied with both Gottschalk and Espadero in Cuba, and later at the Paris Conservatory as a result of Gottschalk’s recommendation and influence. Along with Manuel Saumell, who wrote a piece In honor of Gottschalk, the next generation of Cuban musicians were equally beholden to Gottschalk’s influences. Hubert de Blanck, who studied with Cervantes and founded the National Conservatory in Cuba, was the teacher of Ernesto Lecuona (with whom my father Pablo studied) and Jorge Bolet (with whom I studied). Also included is a woman composer who happens to be Lecuona’s sister Ernestina! All the composers on this CD represent classical Cuba and all have connections to Gottschalk.