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Patrick Rucker
Fanfare, March 2009

Judging by the persuasive readings heard here, the restorations have been successful. All the performances originated at the Hot Springs Music Festival of June 2006, with the exception of “A Night in the Tropics”. Of particular interest are the forces employed for the Symphony No. 2, “À Montevideo.” Gottschalk, child of the 19th century, shared his contemporaries’ penchant for the effects that could be achieved with massed choral and orchestral forces. Accordingly, the “Montevideo” Symphony is performed here by 200 musicians, a blend of professionals and students, assembled at the festival. Thanks to Rosenberg’s considerable skills as a conductor, this gigantic orchestra plays with precision, its blended and balanced sound equal to Gottschalk’s sophisticated textures and color palette. Michael Gurt plays the bravura solos of the quasi-concertos, Célèbre tarantelle and the Portuguese/Brazilian anthem, with a combination of rhythmic brilliance and elegant poise. © 2009 Fanfare

Penguin Guide, January 2009

A very appealing disc of Gottschalk’s attractive orchestral music, much of it available (in these versions) for the first time. The Célèbre tarentelle was the composer’s party piece during his lifetime, and this version, in his own orchestration, appears for the first time. Both the Symphonies are in effect tone-poems, with plenty of local colour, especially in the catchy Festa Criolla movement of Symphony No. 1, subtitled, A Night in the Tropics. La Casa del Joven Enrique por Méhul (1849), a fantasy based on Méhul’s La Chasse du jeune Henri overture, followed the composer’s studies in Paris with Hallé, Chopin and Berlioz. It was written for a ‘monster’ concert in Havana, with multiple pianos and a huge orchestra, which never took place. This recording, with five pianists, is its première recording, and most enjoyable it is too. The Variations are enjoyable enough, with some neat passages and flamboyant piano writing, recently reconstructed, and recorded here for the first time. As the sleeve-note writer says, in his Escenas Campestres Cubanas (Cuban Country Scenes), Gottschalk ‘combines high art, populist sensibilities and mass appeal’. The music is tuneful and catchy, even if the singing is rather wild. Melissa Barrick sounds like a boy treble in the Ave Maria.

C. Michael Bailey
All About Jazz, August 2008

Louis Moreau Gottschalk was equally adept at adapting his famous piano music to orchestral settings. This first recording of the Hot Springs Festival Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Richard Rosenberg devotes most of its attention to Gottschalk’s originally conceived orchestral works. These include his “Grande Tarentelle” and Symphony Number 1, “A Night in the Tropics.”

This music may sound suspiciously familiar to even the most naive of Gottschalk listeners. Gottschalk was assimilating the musics of Europe, North America, South America, and the Islands into a cauldron what would eventually produce jazz in the late 1890s and early 1910s. One wonders how fellow pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton (and Scott Joplin, for that matter) would have turned out had Gottschalk not preceded him.

“A Night in the Tropics” is a beautifully humid piece that evokes images of warm breezes rustling palms in open air restaurants in hyper-southern climes. Think of Casa Blanca in Rio. Gottschalk left his piano a center point of almost all of his orchestral pieces. He was ever the showman and like Liszt, he composed to his own talent and its exposition. Rosenberg and his Hot Springs orchestra understand this implicitly making this a fine recording.

Jeremy Nicholas
Gramophone, April 2008

If you have any doubts about investing in a disc with an outfit called the Hot Springs Festival Symphony Orchestra, let me reassure you: if not world-class, they are certainly first-class, superbly drilled by Rosenberg. © 2008 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Peter J. Rabinowitz
Fanfare, March 2008

…these are all pieces well worth knowing—and for those works that have been previously recorded in earlier editions, these new, editorially up-to-date performances are probably the ones to have. The recordings were made during three different summers, and the “Hot Spring Festival Symphony Orchestra” had different personnel each year. Still, all three groups—composed of professional players and young pre-professionals—have a similar commitment and rhythmic zest; and while they don’t have the polish of the Chicago Symphony or the Philadelphia Orchestra, Gottschalk’s orchestral scores were written with the expectation of a certain scrappiness. …this CD catches Gottschalk’s spirit far more infectiously than the competition does.

I especially enjoyed the symphonies: this recording of “Nuit” has been my favorite for years, and the new recording of “À Montevideo” is every bit its equal. It’s even less a “symphony” than “Nuit” is—more a potpourri of melodramatic gestures and nationalistic fervor. And while I’d never been impressed with the music as heard via Buketoff’s Vox recording, this new reading has such bright colors and such rhythmic lift that you hardly notice the creaks. Escenas campestre cubanas comes across splendidly, too. It’s billed as an “opera” but it’s really just a plotless series of exchanges between a young woman and two suitors, much of the music filched from Gottschalk’s earlier piano work Danza. But whatever you call it, its rhythmic vitality will seduce you—as will the singing of Anna Noggle, who dances through her coloratura with exuberance. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, February 2008

On the present disc Gottschalk’s manuscripts have been painstakingly reconstructed by Richard Rosenberg. The liner notes by Mr Starr as well as Rosenberg’s own commentaries to the individual pieces make for fascinating reading and I do admire the devotion and the stamina to carry through such work…Of the music here, the Symphony No. 2 is among the best with a majestic second half of the second movement…I and hopefully the rest of the musical world have reasons to be immensely grateful to Richard Rosenberg and his enthusiastic musicians for bringing into the sunshine something as close as possible to what Gottschalk had in mind when he wrote the music.

Anthony Clarke
Limelight, November 2007

When he died suddenly of peritonitis, aged just 39, the reams of [Gottschalk’s] compositions were dispersed, and mostly destroyed. For this recording, Richard Rosenberg and colleague Michael Gurt have scoured the manuscripts which remain, deciphered the faded and almost illegible handwriting, and presented us with the only complete orchestral compositions left to us. There is some mundane journeyman material here, as there would be from most composers if we were given such a magpie collection of surviving pieces. But there are enough jaunty pieces, with a Creole lilt that hint towards the future development of jazz, to make us understand why Gottschalk in his day was such a phenomenon, and how much we have missed by fate not letting him return to America, as he wished, to concentrate on composition.

This music shows what a strong melodic gift Gottschalk had, reminiscent in fact of composers as diverse as Donizetti and Tchaikovsky. The vocal fragments preserved here, especially the Opera in One Act, Escanas Campestres Cubanas, show what a gift to opera Gottschalk might have been. This was the natural endeavour to which he would have turned if he’d been given time. The flavor of these surviving works suggest he would have composed on the lighter lyrical side—a Creole Offenbach, perhaps.

Until now, Gottschalk’s surviving piano works have had most circulation. We can now add to them these remaining orchestral pieces. Naxos has given us a fascinating resurrection of an almost-lost byway of 19th century music.

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, October 2007

Gottschalk, ‘The Chopin of the Creoles’, spent most of his short life on concert platforms in Europe, the US and especially South America. Extraordinary then that he found time to write music, much of it lost when he died of peritonitis at the age of 39. As the composer’s biographer S. Frederick Starr remarks in the CD booklet, reconstructing the surviving material from smudged originals and inaccurate copies was an enormous task. The results are presented here by talented young players who respond enthusiastically to these erratic but entertaining scores.

The three pianos don’t appear for quite some time but when they do it’s clear this is Gottschalk in scintillating form. Over the top? Without question, but the Hot Springs band play with such passion and brio that it’s impossible to resist the music’s gaudy charm. The Haydnesque hunting calls are just spectacular, the pianists making the most of Gottschalk’s virtuoso writing. Admittedly the orchestral textures are a little clotted at times but there is a sweep to the music that is entirely appropriate, given that Méhul’s opera Le jeune Henri (1797) is the model here. Most enjoyable.

This collection is as good an introduction to Gottschalk’s œuvre as any.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, June 2007

This release, containing all of the Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829–1869) orchestral works discovered to date, will be a CLOFO “Best Find” of the year. Anyone who can’t find something to like about it must be on their way to curmudgeondom! There are five—count them—five world premiere recordings here. These include Young Henry’s Hunt, which was just unearthed in 2003, and the original versions of Grand Tarentelle, Cuban Country Scenes, A Montevideo Symphony and Concert Variations on the Portuguese National Anthem. These pieces prove beyond a doubt that Louis Moreau was a fabulous melodist who drew heavily from the wealth of Creole as well as other North and South American folk material he encountered in his mind-boggling travels (see his fascinating book Notes of a Pianist). He was also a first-class orchestrator, which is not surprising when you consider he studied privately in Paris with the great Hector Berlioz. This once in a lifetime concert opens with A Montevideo Symphony (No. 2, 1868–69), and from the very beginning anyone familiar with the old treasured Vox recording of it will find themselves in new territory. At only eleven minutes long, this lovable, disarmingly naive work must be the shortest romantic symphony ever written. It’s full of aria-like as well as Camptown Races-sounding passages, and ends with a pastiche of beautifully interwoven patriotic airs from Uruguay and the United States. With references to Hail Columbia and Yankee Doodle, it anticipates what was to come from Charles Ives. The Grand Tarentelle (1868) scored for piano and orchestra will be familiar to all Gottschalk fans, but the version here, like everything else on this disc, comes across with such clarity, lightness of touch and energy that many will find it preferable to all other recorded versions. Cuban Country Scenes (1859–60) is for all intents and purposes a tiny zarzuela. It’s absolutely terrific with infectious rhythms and vocal lines which would have turned Gaetano Donizetti green with envy! It’ll make you hope and pray that some day those lost operas Gottschalk allegedly wrote will surface. In Concert Variations on the Portuguese National Anthem (1869) the composer takes the theme in question, which is a run-of the mill rather Italianate sounding march tune, and turns it into a rousing romp for piano and orchestra. Just listen to all those intricate finger work embellishments—Chico Marx sure would have had fun with this! You probably never even knew Gottschalk wrote an Ave Maria (1864), but that’s next in a lovely arrangement for voice and chamber orchestra. Then comes a real treat, Young Henry’s Hunt (1861), which is a stunning rearrangement Louis Moreau did of the overture to Etienne Mehul’s opera La chasse de jeune Henri. Berlioz would have loved his student’s creation, realized here with five pianists and an orchestra of 112, which includes what sounds like a chorus of French Horns. Hold on to your hairpiece when they all cut loose! The concert closes with a Gottschalk great, A Night in the Tropics Symphony (No. 1, 1859). The original version as reconstructed from the autograph manuscript is presented here. It should also be pointed out that this particular recording first appeared on a disc released in 2000. You’ll notice a big difference between it and the old Vox and Vanguard recordings. In fact the grand finale includes some exotic percussion that makes it the most colorful version to have ever hit the streets. Conductor Richard Rosenberg was the guiding light behind all of the reconstructions and arrangements heard here. Along with his youthful Hot Springs Festival Orchestra he brings a delicate touch, crisp tempos and unbridled enthusiasm to all of these selections, making this release some of the best musical Americana to have appeared in a long time. Overall the sound is superb and will certainly please audiophiles. It should be noted though, that A Night…was recorded in a drier (less reverberant) acoustic than that for the other selections. A couple of thoughts for those thrifty newsletter readers who have the earlier CD and may be wondering whether it’s worth getting the new one: first, A Night…represents only sixteen out of a total seventy-seven minutes of playing time; second, except for the redundant selection, all of the other Gottschalk goodies on both discs are mutually exclusive (all three versions of the Grand Tarentelle are different), and nowhere else to be found; and last, but not least, don’t forget to take into consideration the low Naxos bill of fare.

Alan Rich
LA Weekly, June 2007

Back in the days of the LP, it was an act of considerable heroism for Goddard Lieberson’s Columbia Records to devote time and money to recording serious American music. Today, nearly every important event takes place in front of a microphone and a competent engineer, and now there is Naxos to build its considerable catalog of Americana from new and recently archived performances. And while Lieberson’s label nourished itself primarily on the luxury of New York performances, the Naxos catalog reaches far, wide and, now and then, risky.

Here, for example, is a perfect delight of a disc, of music from that grand pioneer Louis Gottschalk, who charmed the crowds here and abroad up through Civil War days with flamboyant, virtuosic display pieces. From last year’s Hot Springs ( Arkansas ) Festival comes a whole disc of Gottschalk’s orchestral works, and it’s a hoot. It includes the hilariously lovable Célèbre Tarantelle and Night in the Tropics, guaranteed to lift you off your seat on first hearing, and Gottschalk’s own arrangement for five pianos, nine horns and 112-piece orchestra of The Young King Henry’s Hunt (don’t ask). There’s even an opera, 13 minutes long, something Cuban. The Hot Springs forces are led by a certain Richard Rosenberg, and you haven’t heard any of the soloists, so you don’t need to now. The performances are as good as they need to be at the price; don’t forget, this is Naxos.

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