Paris at the time of Gottschalk's arrival.
pon debarking the Taglioni at the port of Le Havre, Gottschalk continued his journey another 125 miles (
200 km) to Paris where accommodations were waiting for him. Edward Gottschalk had arranged for his son to stay with a couple by the name of Dussert who operated a boarding school at 64 Rue de Clichy. While the intent of his trip to Paris was to further his study of music he was, after all, 12 years old and the Dusserts were responsible for his general education. Gottschalk's studies were strongly based in French literature and poetry with additional areas of study in fencing, horseman ship and Italian.
Shortly after his arrival, Gottschalk was taken by M. Dussert to meet Sigismund Thalberg
1812 - 1871
who was generally regarded, along with Franz Liszt and Frédéric Chopin as as one of the supreme piano virtuosos of Europe. The meeting went quite well and after young Moreau played for him, Thalberg praised the boy and urged him to study composition. Gottschalk and Thalberg would cross paths again years later in different circumstances.
Gottschalk and his Father had supposed from the outset that he would enroll in the Conservatoire de Paris to study piano. As soon as Moreau was settled, M. Dussert took him to the Conservatoire only to be rejected without so much as an audition. The professor of piano at that time was Pierre-Joseph Zimmerman
1785 - 1853
who rejected young Moreau out of hand saying that Gottschalk was American and that "America was the country of railroads but not of musicians." Though Zimmerman was upholding a policy of non-admission for foreigners, the policy had not been strictly adhered to in the past, making Gottschalk's rejection seem arbitrary. Ultimately, Zimmerman would have egg on his face as young Moreau's climb to celebrity placed him in venues that Zimmerman could only dream of and just eight years later, Gottschalk served on the honors jury at the Conservatoire de Paris seated next to Zimmerman.
With the rejection of the Conservatoire, Gottschalk's piano studies would have to be with private teachers and the first such instructor to be engaged was Charles Hallé
1819 - 1895
, a piano whiz ten years older than Gottschalk. Within a year though, it was necessary to seek out another teacher as Hallé's concert schedule kept him away for long periods. The renowned Frédéric-Guillaume Kalkbrenner was approached who in turn recommended his star pupil, Camille Stamaty (left). Gottschalk liked Stamaty and matured under his instruction who, at that same time, was teaching a very young Camille Saint-Saëns
1835 - 1921
. Stamaty also arranged for young Moreau to study composition with Pierre Maleden.
Thanks to Mme. Dussert, Gottschalk's free time often involved attending soirées. On the surface these formal evening parties may seem a way to merely pass the time but they were in fact, the nineteenth century equivalent of social networking. As a result of his attendance at those functions, word of Gottschalk's pianistic skill began to spread and interest in him was high.
Four years after Gottschalk's arrival in Paris, Stamaty felt that he was ready for a trial debut in the form of a non-paying concert. Invitations were sent to Paris' music elite and on April 2, 1845 at the Salle Pleyel, those attending represented a who's who of music notables including Chopin
1810 - 1849
and Thalberg. The evening began with Chopin's Piano Concerto No 1 in e-minor and included works by Liszt and Thalberg. The debut was a great success and when it was over, Chopin went backstage to congratulate the young Gottschalk. Accounts of what transpired at that meeting vary and most, no doubt, have been embellished. However, from Gottschalk's perspective, to be congratulated by the legendary Chopin must have most satisfying and news of the encounter represented an implied endorsement.
After his debut, Gottschalk resumed performing in the salons of Paris and was increasingly invited to the salons of some very influential people. Around this time too, he wrote his earliest compositions including Polka de Salon
(Op 1), Danse Ossianique
(Op 12) and La Moissonneuse
(Op 8), all very Chopinesque in character.
Gottschalk's mother Aimée, conscious of her French roots, had long aspired to live in the country of her ancestors. Shortly after young Moreau departed New Orleans, she gathered her children and moved to Paris while Edward Gottschalk remained behind and continued to support her.
In 1848, revolution swept Europe in what is known as the Year of Revolution
. Virtually every country in Europe was affected and the trouble had began in France. In order to avoid the chaos, Gottschalk spent that summer at the country home of Dr. Eugene Woillez. It was in this quiet setting, after assessing his composing up to that point, that Gottschalk wrote his signature piece, Bamboula
as well as another piece in the same vein, Savane
. In these and subsequent pieces, Gottschalk dug down to his Louisiana Créole roots for inspiration and created music that was regarded at the time as very new and exotic.
When Gottschalk returned to Paris in 1849, now nineteen years old, he introduced Bamboula
to the salons where it created a sensation. For a piece that few had actually heard, it became the talk of Paris. As a way of capitalizing on this, Camille Pleyel organized Gottschalk's first paying concert for April 17, 1849 at his Salle Pleyel. Bamboula
was held until the end of the program and when Gottschalk had finished playing it, the crowd was on it's feet wild with enthusiasm. Following that concert, Gottschalk was 'discovered' and regarded by some as equal to the reigning virtuosos of the day. It was around this time that Gottschalk became a close friend of Hector Berlioz
1803 - 1869
. That friendship continued even after Gottschalk departed Europe as the two wrote each other regularly for the rest of their lives.
During the summer of 1849, Gottschalk departed Paris to avoid a cholera epidemic and rested at Le Havre where he finished his third Créole piece, Le Bananier
. He returned to Paris in December of 1849 and at a concert held in January, 1850, introduced the public to Le Bananier
. The wild acceptance of this piece exceeded that of Bamboula
with Le Bananier
becoming the rage of not just Paris, but well beyond France's borders. The publisher is said to have earned 250,000 Francs from sales of the piece. It was during that concert season that Gottschalk became acquainted with Jacques Offenbach
1819 - 1880
when he performed with him at several concerts. Offenbach was then a struggling cellist.
Lake Geneva, one of Gottschalk's stops in Switzerland.
ottschalk continued concertizing at a grueling pace until June of 1850 when very suddenly, feeling the need for rest, he left for Switzerland. His new found fame preceded him however, and rest would not be in the cards. By July he was in Geneva where he answered the public demand and performed at three successful concerts. He also found himself a frequent house guest at the residence of the Grand Duchess Anna Fedorovna
1781 - 1860
, a music lover whose estate had become a center of music activity in Switzerland. In October 1850 Gottschalk moved on to Lausanne, Switzerland where he had two more successful concerts.
Then on 1 November, 1850 the French paper Feuilleton du Siècle
, reported this very peculiar story-
". . . Jenny Lind has almost been surpassed, for we have never heard that she was carried off bodily. This accident has happened, it is said, to Gottschalk. A young, pretty, and robust Genevese girl waited for him at the coming out of the concert, where the pianist had been covered with flowers, and enveloping him all at once in a large mantle [cloak] took him in her arms and carried him off, which the frail and delicate nature of her victim permitted her to do easily, to the general consternation. We do not know if this be true; we tell it as it was told. What is certain is, that the young pianist precipitately left Geneva after having been the delight of the elegant society there . . . "
As a result of this article, stories circulated that Gottschalk was off somewhere with a lover; namely, the amazon in the press. In all likelihood, the newspaper account was an example of manufactured news and one is left to imagine that the reason for Gottschalk's disappearance was motivated by a need for rest, the purpose for visiting Switzerland in the first place.
The overall reception by the Swiss was as enthusiastic as that he had enjoyed in France and when Gottschalk rounded out his time in Switzerland with two benefit concerts, his image as an artist and as a man of charity was magnified.
By January 1851 Gottschalk was back in France and shortly after returning, wrote his fourth and final Louisiana Créole piece, Le Mancenillier
. It was based on the Créole tune Chanson de Lizette
and is regarded by many as the most polished of the four works though it's reception was somewhat cooler than Bamboula
and Le Bananier
On 25 March 1851, just after his return to Paris, the Pleyel piano factory suffered a devastating fire. Gottschalk quickly organized a benefit concert for the employees of Pleyel at the conclusion of which, they expressed their appreciation by presenting him with flowers. The charity that Gottschalk displayed for Pleyel and had previously shown in Switzerland was real and sincere. He was always ready to help those in need and during his life, organized hundreds of benefit concerts wherever he went.
Gottschalk had been wanting to tour Spain for some time and had even received an invitation from Isabella II
Queen Isabella II
1830 - 1904
of Spain prior to his trip to Switzerland. Isabella had heard that Bamboula
was dedicated to her and wanted to hear the young composer perform it. When he finally departed for Spain, he got as far as Bordeaux in late May, 1851 when suddenly he was forced to return to Paris. News reached him that his father had just arrived in Paris. After spending time with his father, Gottschalk headed once again for Spain and arrived at San Sebastian, just over the border, in September.
Ironically, when Gottschalk ventured onto the Iberian Peninsula, Spain had just come to political odds with the US on the subject of Cuba and tension was high. Wherever Gottschalk went, he was treated with indifference and made no public appearances for for several weeks. The Queen had wanted to hear Gottschalk play since before the tension with the US, thus, in what was as much a 'cooling down' political maneuver as an evening of entertainment, Gottschalk was eventually granted an audience with Isabella II. In a letter to his father dated 19 November 1851, Gottschalk described that evening -
After being escorted endlessly through the palace
". . . the audience was to be the King, the Queen, the Queen Dowager, and the Duke. This is the greatest mark of honour that could possibly be conferred on me at this court, as I shall be the first artist ever admitted so freely to the private apartments of the palace . . . "
The Royal Palace, Madrid, he arrived at the Queen's chambers -
A half hour of chit-chat ensued when finally -
". . . I first played my duo for two pianos, assisted by the King's pianist. At the finale, I heard her Majesty rise, leave her seat, and place herself behind my chair. The King was to my right, leaning on the piano, the Queen Dowager a little farther off. Several times I could hear the Queen exclaim in Spanish, "I never heard anything so beautiful!" After the piece was over, the King came and complimented me; and the Queen said to me: "Very good, Monsieur Gottschalk, that was very good!" The King requested the Bananier, one of my own compositions, on a Creole air, that you in New Orleans must have heard often. "I play it," said the King; "it is a great favourite of mine." I played the piece; and the Queen and her mother appeared to be charmed with it. The King asked me for another of my pieces. I played the Danse Ossianique, which produced as flattering an effect as its predecessors. The Queen came to me, and addressed me a compliment conceived in the most gracious terms; she then asked me for another performance. I played the Moissonneuse. The King said: "That is good music, Monsieur Gottschalk; that is poetry itself. . . . "
Gottschalk then described his farewell to the Royals -
". . . her Majesty insisted on hearing the piece I had dedicated to her, the Bamboula, another beautiful old Creole air. "We are so much pleased with it," said the King, "that I frequently either play it myself, or have it played for me." I begged their Majesties to have a little indulgence for me, in case I did not please them so well in this as in other pieces; for I had not played it for a long time. "Say you so!" replied the King, laughing; "then you must play it for us, for I wish now to see in what manner you will be able to play badly." I played the ' Bamboula,' and the King and Queen appeared to be much astonished at it . . . "
Following his audience, the Queen conferred upon him the Order of Isabella the Catholic, an honor that he cherished for the rest of his life. When the people of Spain learned of the audience with Isabella, Gottschalk was accepted with enthusiasm and began performing for other members of the court and finally, the public. Things were going nicely until he injured his finger and found it necessary to take three months away from playing. In truth, he had been attacked. He was entering a carriage when he heard his name called and stopped to see who had called him. At that instant, with his hand grasping the door frame, someone slammed the door. This shameful act had for years been attributed to the court pianist though there is strong evidence that it was in fact a jealous lover.
". . . It being then time to retire, the King accompanied us to the door of the saloon and remained there, watching our departure, until we had passed the third or fourth saloon, waving his hand to me and smiling pleasantly. This is considered to be the most polite compliment the King can pay to a visitor; but it is rather troublesome, as it obliges one to retire backwards . . . " [ 3 ]L. M. Gottschalk, Notes of a Pianist - pg. 60 - 61.
While he was recovering, Gottschalk happened upon an eight year old street urchin in Vallodolid who he took an interest in. The boy's name was Ramón and he had been surviving by making and selling wax figurines. Ramón was cleaned and clothed (lavishly) and even, through an introduction by Gottschalk, presented his figurines to the Queen. Gottschalk adopted Ramón who remained with him until they parted ways in New Orleans. Ramón eventually became the personal valet to General P. G. T. Beauregard
General P. G. T. Beauregard
1818 - 1893 of the Confederate Army.
Still nursing his finger, Gottschalk wrote a colossal show piece for ten pianos called Le Siege de Saragosse or the Battle of Saragossa. It was performed in June 1852 at the Téatro del Principe where the audience, largely military officers, cheered with wild enthusiasm; at one point encoring a particularly evocative passage. Following his success in Madrid, Gottschalk was touring the south of Spain when, in November of 1852, he departed Spain abruptly on a ship bound for Marsailles on the Mediterranian coast. He had received news that his father desired his presence in New York City. From Marsailles he journeyed to Paris, where he said good bye to his mother and siblings, then boarded the steamship Humboldt bound for New York. He would never see his mother again.
New York City in 1854 as viewed from the steeple of St. Paul's Church, Henry A. Papprill
ottschalk arrived in New York in January of 1853. He was now twenty three years old and behind him lay a memorable decade in France where he had enjoyed unconditional acceptance of his playing and his compositions. His expectation now, was to affect that same approval in his home country. To his chagrin, he was occasionally informed that he spoke with a slight French accent.
Upon Moreau's arrival, Edward Gottschalk began making arrangements for a New york debut. Though his father had no experience as an agent, he nonetheless understood the need to create interest for the impending concert. To that end, Edward invited New York's music critics and press to an evening of music who in turn, reported on Gottschalk's incredible pianistic skill. The venue chosen for the event was Niblo's
The stage of Niblo's Garden
Saloon or Niblo's Garden. Edward also retained the services of an orchestra with William Wallace as conductor and Richard Hoffman was signed on as an assistant pianist for the four hand pieces Gottschalk planned.
As the concert date approached Gottschalk became ill, probably the result of anxiety, and the event was postponed a week. Though the orchestra was not available for the debut, which occurred on February 11, the concert went brilliantly and the crowd cheered wildly. Reports of the event, though generally positive, had an under tone of controversy that would would follow Gottschalk the rest of his life. In a nutshell, the high brows wanted the classics while those who felt America needed a cultural identity applauded Gottschalk's Créole pieces as representative of a new American culture. A second concert was given a few days later, this time with the orchestra present, and it too was well received by the public but produced bickering in the press. The receipts, however, failed to cover the expenses.
After the debut, Gottschalk was approached by P. T. Barnum
Phineas Taylor Barnum
1810 - 1891
who offered him an incredible annual salary to tour for him. Gottschalk saw financial independence in the offer but his father, Edward, did not care for the idea. In the end, Gottschalk turned him down.
Gottschalk signed on with William Brough as his agent and headed south for New Orleans. Along the way he played concerts in Philadelphia, Cinncinati and Louisville which received little press due to Brough's poor management.
On the day that Gottschalk was due to arrive in New Orleans, a large crowd gathered at the steamboat landing to greet him but ended up dispersing when news was received that a riverboat had sunk on the river. Gottschalk's boat was fine but late. He arrived without fanfare and went alone to his grandmothers house.
In the days that followed, the people of New Orleans showed their enthusiastic appreciation for the conquering hero at a series of ten concerts. Not only was Gottschalk welcomed home with open arms but the receipts from ticket sales were substantial. He then embarked on a tour of the north with Brough again managing and again bungling the trip transforming the tour into a series of missed opportunities. In June of 1853 the tour concluded and Gottschalk retired to Saratoga Springs, New York then a little later to Newport, Rhode Island. Most of this time was spent composing and it was during this rest that he wrote one of his signature pieces of Americana, Le Banjo
Following his time off in New York and Rhode Island Gottschalk's career possibilities looked bleak and his agent William Brough jumped ship in favor of managing Louis-Antoine Jullien
1812 - 1860
, a well known conductor newly arrived from England. Making his way to New York, Gottschalk again played Niblo's in August of 1853 with poor results. Signing on with F. B. Helmsmuller as his manager, he set out on a tour of New England. As it turned out, Helmsmuller was no better at managing than Brough. A concert at Boston Music Hall in October, 1853 was attended only by a few concert goers. Just before a second Boston concert, Gottschalk received a telegram informing him his father was near death but performed that evening anyway. It was not one of his better performances. During his stay in Boston Gottschalk became a target of Dwight's Music Journal
who severely criticised him for not including more of the classics on his programs and labeled his own music 'vulgar'. Dwight's
championed the German classicists, or as a New Yorker would later put it, "a bunch of dead Germans."
Gottschalk's father died three weeks after his Boston concerts and with his passing, Gottschalk took upon himself the responsibility of supporting his mother and four sisters living in Paris. In the end, this would prove to be an almost unbearable burden as his mother had always felt entitled. For the rest of his life Gottschalk would send most of what he made to Paris. Even when his mother passed away, he continued to support his sisters until they were adults.
Gottschalk continued his tour playing at Providence, New Haven, Worcester and Hartford. Ticket receipts from those concerts were dismal and by the time Gottschalk rounded out the tour in New York he had hit rock bottom and was deep in debt. He returned to New Orleans where the citizens of that city showed their appreciation of him in two subscription concerts that finally netted some much needed money. It was at these concerts that Gottschalk introduced a new bravura piece call the Battle for Bunker Hill
for ten pianos. Although those concerts were a great success, at their conclusion Gottschalk realized that he had no prospects at all. Accustomed to adoration for the first twenty three years of his life, Gottschalk's treatment in America was discouraging. He put the Spanish boy Ramón with a family, joined up with his brother Edward, and headed for Cuba.
Havana, Cuba about about the time of Gottschalk's arrival
nce again, Gottschalk unwittingly managed to time his travels concurrent with political unrest between Spain and the US. And once again the issue on the table was Cuba. Thus, he was unable to make public appearances initially and performed exclusively at private gatherings. On the day of his arrival in Havana he met, by sheer coincidence, Carlos Edelmann, owner of a music store that Gottschalk had wandered into to play for two of his traveling companions. Edelmann was an influential and accomplished pianist and music publisher in Havana and quickly organized a soirée to which he invited the elite of Havana's piano world. It was among these musicians that Gottschalk met and befriended Nicolás Ruiz Espadero
Nicolás Ruiz Espadero
1832 - 1890
, a pianist and composer of exceptional ability. Years later, after Gottschalk's death, Espadero would edit and publish many of Gottschalk's compositions that had not been printed during his life.
Word of Gottschalk's playing spread quickly and another private gathering was held, hosted by Onofre Morejon y Arango. As a consequence of these gatherings, Gottschalk was accepted into the circle of Havana's elite pianists. Tension between the US and Spain then thawed enough to permit a public concert. The first concert Gottschalk held in Havana was at the Teatro de Villanueva, a rundown hovel of a venue but the reception by the audience was enthusiastic. At that concert Gottschalk performed his Le Siege de Saragosse
for ten pianos and introduced a new bravura piece based on a popular Cuban tune, El Cocoye
. Following that concert Gottschalk played at the Gran Teatro de Tacón
Gran Teatro de Tacón
, one of Havana's finest opera houses, and was again acknowledged with exhilarating ovations. After his ill treatment in the US press, it must have been refreshing for him to once again be appreciated by audiences and
Newspaper's announced that Gottschalk's Tacón appearance was his last and that he would be departing Cuba. After the concert however, he neglected to leave. Instead, he began crisscrossing the island of Cuba, stopping in Matanzas, Cárdenas and Santiago de Cuba to name a few but not staying long wherever he went and managing to write several new pieces. After his initial successes in Havana, the possibilities turned bleak and Gottschalk found himself broke. He put his brother Edward onto a ship bound for Philadelphia and was able, at last, to sell his prized Pleyel piano, something he had been attempting to do for some time to raise cash. With no real opportunities in sight, he made his way back to Havana and in February 1855, after a year in Cuba, boarded a ship for New Orleans however, New York was to be his final destination.
he people of New Orleans welcomed Gottschalk home in February 1855. During his stay in New Orleans, he gave concerts at the Odd Fellows Hall where he premiered his newly written The Last Hope
, a sentimental trifle that would ultimately take on a life of it's own. Departing New Orleans for the last time, Gottschalk made his way to the spa at Trenton Falls, New York to recuperate from an illness that had been plaguing him. After traveling around New York state, he eventually made his way to Manhattan. Unable to get on the concert schedule there for awhile, he took on piano students to make ends meet. At the home of Alfred Boucher, where Gottschalk was always welcome, he met the Strakosch brothers and the Patti family, both of whom would become prominent fixtures in his life later on. Through other introductions Gottschalk found himself in the midst of New York's bohemian circle rubbing elbows with the likes of Walt Whitman as he spent many an evening in Pfaff's
Walt Whitman seated in
Pfaff's Beer Cellar
Beer Cellar or "the vault." Gottschalk was now completely broke.
His new publisher Wm. Hall, in an effort boost sales of his music, arranged a concert at Dodsworth Hall scheduled for December 1855. Where Gottschalk's managers had previously been ineffective, even incompetent, Hall demonstrated considerable acumen. On the night of the concert, Dodsworth Hall was filled beyond capacity with many having to stand through the concert. By invitation, many of those present were critics and musicians. The concert was so successful that the event evolved into a series of sixteen concerts covering six months. Tiny Dodsworth Hall was packed to standing room only for each of the concerts and, but for a few dissenting voices, the critics and press now praised Gottschalk.
Seeing the excitement generated by the Dodsworth concerts, a manager by the name of Bernard Ullmann announced he was off to Europe to sign Sigismund Thalberg for a US tour. This generated considerable excitement, not only because an artist of Thalberg's stature was coming to America, but given Gottschalk's recent success, there was sure to be open warfare between the two. Everybody braced for the inevitable showdown. Neither Ullmann nor anyone else in the US realized that Gottschalk and Thalberg were old acquaintances. Instead of hurling insults at each other, they agreed to perform together thus providing the most spectacular concerts heard in New York up to that time. On the crest of this celebrity, Gottschalk performed with the New York Philharmonic playing the first movement of the wickedly difficult Concerto in f minor by Adolph Henselt.
Gottschalk was again feeling the urge to travel. With Thalberg in the limelight and just having broken off an affair with actress Ada Clare, Gottschalk felt it best to retire from New York. As he was finalizing his travel plans, he received news from Paris that his mother had died. Gottschalk teamed up with the fourteen year old singer Adelina Patti and her father and departed New York to tour the Caribbean.