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De Gaetano Plays Gottschalk


Release Date: 11/08/2005 
Label:  Crystonyx   Catalog #: 1002   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews





Born in New Orleans to a French mother and a father of mid-European Jewish ancestry, Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829?69) died 40 years later of yellow fever in Rio de Janeiro. At age 13, he went to Paris to complete his musical studies and was soon giving brilliant concerts much praised by Berlioz and Chopin. Gottschalk returned to his homeland in 1853 and became ?America?s first superstar,? playing to packed houses with many a pre-Elvis female admirer fainting in the wings. As a composer, Gottschalk followed the lead of Chopin and Liszt in basing his music on native folk themes, which he fused with some European models and the tangy dance rhythms of Latin America. His Read more piano pieces are thus a mixture of such disparate elements as black folk music, American patriotic tunes, Stephen Foster, the Brazilian samba, and the Cuban danzon, with many ?pre-echoes? of Joplin, Granados, Gershwin, Copland, and even Debussy (e.g., Golliwog?s Cakewalk is not all that far removed from Gottschalk?s The Banjo ).


But popular as Gottschalk was in his day, it took a long time for his music to be widely recorded. If you search in American record catalogs from 50 years ago, you won?t find even one piano LP of Gottschalk?s music! The only item available then was a Columbia LP of Mitropoulos conducting Hershey Kay?s transcription of piano pieces for the ballet Cakewalk. Finally, in 1956, Eugene List (Harry Truman?s favorite pianist) recorded a dozen solo piano works for Vanguard. That LP became my introduction to Gottschalk when I bought a used copy in the 1970s for one dollar, and my buck didn?t stop there: later I bought the Vanguard CD (sadly, it?s out of print). Now, instead of LP famine, we have a feast of competing CD issues, led by the distinguished eight-volume survey from Irish pianist Philip Martin (Hyperion). Save for a few of the most popular pieces (e.g., The Banjo, Bamboula, The Dying Poet, Tournament Galop), no two CDs are alike: each single-disc offering has a different notion of just what constitutes Gottschalk?s ?greatest hits.? What?s more, there are two very different sides to Gottschalk?s music. Many of his pieces are delicately sensuous and highly nuanced, while others are quite extroverted and virtuosic, and very few pianists can meet those demands with equal success. The same is largely the case with Chopin interpreters, where a subtle colorist like Askenase is at his best in the wistful and dreamy waltzes, but short on firepower in the more outwardly dramatic scherzos and ballades. By contrast, Rubinstein can sound cavalier and brusque in the former but wonderfully bold and declarative in the latter.


On this disc, we have American pianist Robert DeGaetano, who studied at Juilliard with Rosina Lhevinne and later with Alexis Weissenberg. His collection presents a diverse cross section of Gottschalk?s music at its best. Danza was written in Puerto Rico in 1857 and mixes a French polka with a Puerto Rican dance rhythm (Gottschalk later used it in a one-act opera of 1860). The Little Book of Louis Moreau Gottschalk contains three songs and four dances. According to DeGaetano?s rather random liner notes, ?the cycle was part of a collection purchased by the New York Public Library in 1947 from Mr. Rene Guin y Toussaint, who had acquired it from a relative of the Cuban composer Espadero, a very close friend of Gottschalk.? These pieces were composed over a period of years in various locations on three continents. Bamboula is the name for a drum used in a popular New Orleans dance of Gottschalk?s childhood that combines African drum rhythm and Creole folk melody. The highly syncopated Souvenir de la Havane was one of many pieces that Gottschalk composed on visits to Cuba and the West Indies. Le bananier is based on a Creole song (Offenbach later transcribed it for cello). Union was written in 1862 during the Civil War. Despite his Southern upbringing, Gottschalk was very pro-Union and anti-Slavery. The work incorporates the Star-Spangled Banner , Hail Columbia , and Yankee Doodle Dandy (Gottschalk played it for President Lincoln at the White House in 1864). Souvenirs d?Andalousie was improvised in 1851 at a concert in Madrid. The Banjo is the composer?s famous tribute to American country music. The Victorian sentimentality of The Dying Poet was later much used by pianists in silent movie theatres. Seizing on the dance popularity of the galop, Gottschalk played his Tournament Galop at nearly all of his concerts.


Everything here has also been recorded by Martin on multiple Hyperion CDs. Martin is definitely a ?cameo? player somewhat in the style of Askenase and Kempff: he?s small-scale, very attentive to detail and graded dynamics. DeGaetano is more of a Rubinstein type of pianist: broadly romantic, bolder of gesture, not always subtle but never dull. His playing has an engagingly spontaneous quality (I suspect each piece was recorded in a single take, at the cost of some botched rhythms and a few wrong notes). Martin displays more delicacy and finesse in Danza and Mazurka, where DeGaetano sounds too metrical and tends to pound. But in the grandiloquent numbers like Union, DeGaetano simply has more of the requisite chops than Martin, who sounds strained. I find both pianists a little slow and heavy in The Banjo. DeGaetano demonstrates his lyrical side to lovely effect in the Ballade, and he negotiates The Dying Poet without wallowing. His twinkling account of Le bananier and his impish sense of glee in Tournament Galop actually remind me, believe it or not, of Liberace. That?s not meant to deprecate, for Gottschalk himself may have had a great deal in common with that glittery showman.


Goldilocks-wise, my favorite bowl of porridge in this music is still the pioneering disc by Eugene List, who is straightforward, sparing of pedal, kaleidoscopic in nuance, and blessed with plenty of ?big? technique when needed. A very close second choice is the spellbindingly virtuosic Ivan Davis, on a ridiculously deleted London CD. Both of these should be reissued and given the same ?permanent availability? status that Joshua Rifkin?s wonderful Scott Joplin discs seem to enjoy. Philip Martin?s comprehensive survey is, of course, indispensable. And now this beautifully recorded DeGaetano effort rounds out my current list of favorites. Warmly recommended.


FANFARE: Jeffrey J. Lipscomb
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Works on This Recording

1.
Bamboula, RO 20/Op. 2 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844-1845; Paris, France 
2.
Souvenir de la Havane, RO 246/Op. 39 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Antilles 
3.
Le bananier, RO 21/Op. 5 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845-1846; Paris, France 
4.
Union, RO 269/Op. 48 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862; USA 
5.
Souvenirs d'Andalousie, Op. 22/RO 242 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Paris, France 
6.
Le banjo, Op. 15/RO 22 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854-1855; USA 
7.
Dying Poet, RO 75 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1863-1864; USA 
8.
Tournament Galop, RO 264 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; USA 
9.
Danza for Piano, RO 66/Op. 33 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; Antilles 
10.
Romance for Piano in E flat major, RO 270 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1859 
11.
Ballade for Piano in A flat major, RO 271 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853 
12.
Polka for Piano in B flat major, RO 273 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
13.
Canto del gitano, RO 35 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1852; Switzerland 
14.
Polka for Piano in A flat major, RO 275 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Antilles 
15.
Mazurka for Piano in F sharp minor, RO 276 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century 
16.
Inés, in E flat major RO 277 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Performer:  Robert DeGaetano (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1860; Cuba 

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