Steven Mayer: Louis Moreau Gottschalk: A Night in the Tropics / Solo Piano Music

C. Michael Bailey By

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New Orleans native Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829—1969) was the first important American composer and pianist. The son of a Jewish business man and a Creole mother, Gottschalk was urbane and cosmopolitan is a way not typical for the period. He composed and played on a Chickering piano as big as a house and heavy as a battleship with a showman's personality to match. He forged his reputation by fusing the European classical tradition with American musical elements like folk music, the music of slavery and the music of the Caribbean and Latin America. Owing his considerable musical vision to Chopin, who Gottschalk met while in Paris seeking education, his musical contributions went on to give rise to ragtime, the Harlem stride piano and the developing American classical tradition. Gottschalk co be argued as the American Liszt with his perchance for interpolating popular themes into his compositions.

Steven Mayer is an American pianist who has recorded widely for Naxos records, producing, most notably, Charles Ives—Piano Sonata No. 2 "Concord" (2004) and Art Tatum—Improvisations (2005). He is a Liszt expert, sporting the flair and aplomb of that composer. Mayer brings that same fire to this intelligently assembled recital of Gottschalk's better known pieces.

Included here are "Le Banjo" in which Gottchalk peppers with "Camptown Races" and "Yankee Doodle," his most famous parlor tune, "The Last Hope" (absent here is "The Dying Poet"), and his incredible "Pasquinade." New to the repertoire is Mayer's own piano transcription of Gottschalk's orchestral setting, "A Night in the Tropics." Hearing this piece in reduction, readily shows the sophisticated approach Gottschalk to composition in both his high and low art. This is a good introduction to Gottschalk before moving on to Philip Martin's complete edition on Hyperion.

Track Listing: Le Banjo – Fantaisie grotesque; The Last Hope – Meditation relifieuse; Pasquinade – Caprice; Berceuse; Grande Fataisie triomphale sur I’hymne national bresilien; Le songe d’une nuit d’ete; Fantome de Bonheur; Reflets due passe – Reverie; La Nuit des tropiques – Symphonie romantique.

Personnel: Steven Mayer: piano.

Title: Louis Moreau Gottschalk: A Night in the Tropics / Solo Piano Music | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Naxos

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