LOUIS MOREAU GOTTSCHALK (1829 - 1869)
A child prodigy pianist who was touring Europe as a virtuoso concert soloist while still a teenager, Louis Moreau Gottschalk provides one of the most colourful chapters in the history of American music. He had received considerable support from his father, both in financial and personal terms. His visit to Europe was a triumph, with his playing being compared with all the great virtuoso pianists of his day. Sadly his youth was shattered by the death of his father, requiring the young man to find the money to support his six brothers and sisters, following his father's death. This demanded endless tours around the States, playing hundreds of concerts per year, many in locations that hardly merited his skills. The stress was to great and eventually his health and mental stamina faltered and he withdrew from the concert stage. The period was brought to an end with his need to earn money, and he resumed his crazy workload. To supplement his income he composed easy salon pieces to meet the growing market for piano music. Eventually a scandal with a young female student eventually drove him into exile in South America. There he met with some renewed success in Brazil, where he organised concerts, among them the monster piano concerts, where thirty-one pianists took part. That hectic life caught up with him, and he died in Brazil at the age of 40. His compositions were of varied quality; those written for orchestra show a composer of who could create memorable and catchy tunes, though whether is unusual orchestration was a matter of skill or an equivalent lack of knowledge is still questionable. The result is never profound or subtle, but has a fresh and uninhibited atmosphere.