Plaza de las Armas, Cuba

    ottschalk's five year Caribbean 'adventure' began as a concert tour with Adelina Patti that somewhere along the way found him taking roots in the tropics. Throughout the tour he wanted very much to go to Venezuela but when a civil war broke out there, he was eventually forced to give up the idea.

    The first stop on the Caribbean tour was Cuba where excitement was running high at the news of Gottschalk's return. Upon arriving in Havana, Gottschalk complied with a request for a command performance by Captain-General José Concha at the Plaza de las Armas. He then performed at the Gran Teatro de Tacón with Patti and his Cuban friend Nicolás Ruiz Espadero. For a while Gottschalk and Patti bounced back and forth between Havana, Matanzas and Cárdenas until that played out at which point they began traversing the island. Their success was hit and miss and at one point found themselves in competition with a circus. Their stop in Santiago however, was quite fruitful.

    The next stop on their journey was the island of St Thomas where three subscription concerts netted fifteen hundred dollars. While there, Gottschalk met Charles Allard, an accomplished flautist who ended up joining the tour. The group then continued on to Puerto Rico where they played two concerts before settling down to an extended rest at a plantation. This rest afforded Gottschalk the opportunity to compose and it was there that he wrote Souvenir de Porto Rico (Opus 31), one of his finest compositions and Danza (Op 33) that later found it's way into a miniature Gottschalk opera titled Escenas Campestres Cubanas. Gottschalk, Allard and the Pattis then toured Puerto Rico further with stops at Mayagüez, Cabo Rojo then Ponce where Gottschalk organized his first 'monster' concert. This concert (forty musicians) was a baby compared to his later 'monster' affairs involving hundreds, but for the tiny town of Ponce it was huge. Following a concert in San Juan, Adelina Patti and her father departed for the US while Gottschalk and Allard left Puerto Rico and moved on to Jamaica, Barbados, Triniad then British Guiana for several months.

    Gottschalk and Allard then found themselves on Martinique where there existed the remnants of a Créole culture very similar to old Louisiana. Gottschalk was at ease in this environment and was able to do more composing. It is thought that during this time he worked on an opera titled Amelia Warden and may have completed as much as two acts. Unbeknownst to Gottschalk, the story of this opera was the same that Verdi chose for his Un Ballo in Maschera which premiered as Gottschalk was writing Amelia Warden. This opera, if it existed, has vanished like so many other of Gottschalk's works.

    Towards the end of his stay on Martinique, Gottschalk planned to return to the US for a six month tour then move on to France, however, these plans fell through.

    In the spring of 1859 Martinique came under martial law and Gottschalk and Allard moved on to the island of Guadeloupe beginning the oddest period in Gottschalk's life. It began normal enough with several concerts at Le Moule and Pointe-à-Pitre then a dozen concerts at Basse-Terre. It was at a benefit concert at Basse-Terre that Gottschalk unveiled what he called a fragment of a new symphony, La Nuit des Tropiques (A Night in the Tropics).

    Gottschalk then spent the summer of 1859 at Matouba on Guadeloupe. Like many other aspects of Gottschalk's life, his time at Matouba has been embellished upon, including in his own writing, to the point that one is led to believe that he went completely native in a remote wilderness and lounged in indolence while being waited on an imbecile. Gottschalk's own description of his accommodations -

    ". . . Then, seized with a profound disgust of the world and of myself, tired, discouraged, suspecting men (and women), I hastened to conceal myself in a desert on the extinguished volcano of N --- . . . Perched upon the edge of the crater, on the very top of the mountain, my cabin overlooked the whole country. The rock on which it was built hung over a precipice whose depths were concealed by cacti, convolvuli, and bamboos . . . Every evening I moved my piano upon the terrace, and there, in view of the most beautiful scenery in the world, which was bathed by the serene and limpid atmosphere of the tropics, I played, for myself alone, everything that the scene which opened before me inspired— and what a scene! . . . It was there that I composed 'Reponds moi,' 'La Marche des Gibarros,' 'Polonia,' 'Columbia,' 'Pastorella e Cavalliere,' 'Jeunesse,' and other unpublished works . . ."

    Along with a "one armed Negro" who cooked for him, Gottschalk spoke of another companion at Matouba -

    ". . . I lived for many months like a cenobite, with no other companion than a poor fool that I had met in a small island, who attached himself to me, followed me everywhere, and loved me with that absurd and touching constancy which one only meets with in dogs and madmen. My friend, whose folly was quiet and inoffensive, believed himself to be the greatest genius in the world. He suffered, he said, from a gigantic and monstrous tooth (and it was by this only that I recognized that he was insane, the other symptoms being found among too many individuals to be considered as an abnormal trait of the human mind)—a monstrous tooth which periodically increased, and threatened to encroach upon the whole jaw . Tormented with the desire to regenerate humanity, he divided his time between the study of dentistry . . . and a voluminous correspondence which he carried on with the Pope, his brother, and the Emperor of the French, his cousin . . . He played upon the violin, and, a singular thing, although insane, he understood nothing of the music of the future! [possible reference to Wagner]. . . "

    In truth, Matouba was not a remote desert, as there were other houses in the vicinity, and is four miles from the town of Basse-Terre, sans precipice and far from the volcano. His companion's name was Firmin Moras and though his actual mental state is uncertain, it appears he was educated and remained with Gottschalk as his valet for the rest of his life.

    As it turned out, the time spent on Matouba was far from indolent; it was the most productive period of Gottschalk's career. During this time he wrote Columbia-Caprice Américain, Ojos Criollos, Souvenir de la Havane, Résponds-moi!, Love and Chivalry, Fairy Land, Hurrah Gallop, Jeunesse, Murmures éoliens, several etudes and romances and many other pieces now lost. Most importantly, he completed the score for the first movement of La Nuit des Tropiques, Symphonie romantique.

    In August 1859 Gottschalk, his new valet and Allard sailed to Martinique, where they stayed three months before continuing to Puerto Rico. Allard separated from the others at Puerto Rico and returned home. By November, Gottschalk was back in Havana.

    Upon arriving in Havana a concert was arranged at Liceo Artístico y Literario with Gottschalk, Espadero, violinist José White and several singers. A few weeks later at the Liceo, another concert was given at which Gottschalk performed an improvised tarantella with Espadero and White. This extemporization would grow over the years until it reached it's final form for piano and orchestra, the Grande Tarantelle, (Op 67). Around this time Gottschalk met Arthur Napoleão dos Santos who would later become an important figure in his life.

    In December 1859 Gottschalk announced a monster concert that would ultimately involve 650 musicians. The program consisted of La Nuit des Tropiques, a short opera called Escenas Campestres Cubanas and Sinfonía Triunfal. This last work, Sinfonía Triunfal, is now lost and may have been the finale of yet another Gottschalk opera, this one on the subject of Charles IX. The concert preparations involved a super-human effort on Gottschalk's part -

    "My orchestra consisted of six hundred and fifty performers— eighty-seven choristers, fifteen solo singers, fifty drums and eighty trumpets—that is to say, nearly nine hundred persons bellowing and blowing to see who could scream the loudest. The violins alone were seventy in number, counter-basso eleven, violoncellos eleven! You can judge of the effect. No one can have any idea of the labour which it cost me. The copying alone of the orchestral parts amounted to five thousand francs . . . I had in the last week such an amount of labour that I remained seventytwo hours at work, sleeping only two hours in every twentyfour . . . "

    When the concert was finally held in February of 1860 at the Gran Teatro de Tacón, it was an unqualified success. During this time, Gottschalk wrote Pasquinade (Op 59) and La Gallina (Op 53).

    Following the massive concert, Gottschalk was offered a post as conductor of the Teatro de Tacón. Passionate about opera, he accepted the offer without hesitation as this would also provide the means to produce his new opera. Shortly after working out the details of the contract, he became deathly ill, and wound up recuperating at a sugar plantation. When Gottschalk returned to Havana to assume his duties, news had arrived in Cuba of Verdi's new opera, Un Ballo in Maschera with the same story line as his Amelia Warden. The Teatro de Tacón cancelled Amelia Warden and as a result of intrigues between competing opera companies, Gottschalk found himself conducting a lesser troupe in Matanzas.

    On October 23 1860 Gottschalk inaugurated his brief operatic career when he conducted Les Martyrs by Donizetti. Hampered by a lackluster and uncooperative opera company and reluctant to rehearse properly, by the time his contract was up, Gottschalk realized he didn't have the temperament to be an opera conductor.

    After an orchestral benefit concert that flopped and another 'monster' concert that was reasonably successful, Gottschalk felt it was time to return to New York. Just as he was due to leave, the civil war erupted in the US and he found himself stuck in Cuba. Completely broke, he wandered around Cuba for several months until concert manager Max Strakosch contacted him with an offer for a tour of the the northern states of the US. Gottschalk accepted and departed Cuba on January 17, 1862. Upon arriving in New York, Gottschalk would have to forswear his beloved Louisiana and declare his allegiance to the United States. He strongly believed in the cause of the Union but abandoning the South was a bitter pill to swallow.



    ax Strakosch, Gottschalk's new manager, would prove to be much more effective than his previous handlers. Born in Moravia, Max was the brother of Maurice Strakosch, a pianist and impresario who later managed Adelina Patti as she rose to super stardom in Europe.

    Gottschalk arrived in New York to find that Strakosch had arranged a concert at Niblo's on the ninth anniversary of his first debut there and had attended to pre-concert publicity and courting of the press. Not surprisingly, that created renewed interest in Gottschalk and the press reported, upon hearing him at Niblo's and other venues, that his playing had acquired a maturity; that his delicate touch was now balanced with vibrancy and energy.

    Ever the showman, Gottschalk seeing the general mood in the wartime north wrote a showpiece to fit the time, The Union. Dedicated to General George B. McClellan
General George B. McClellan
1826 - 1885
, The Union became his warhorse throughout the civil war. After playing numerous concerts in New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore, Gottschalk performed in Washington where McClellan was in attendance and heard Gottschalk play The Union. Pleased with the piece and the dedication, McClellan approached Gottschalk after the concert and introduced his wife. Gottschalk found himself on a whirlwind tour and his celebrity reached an all time high. After each concert, people clamored for his photo and a pamphlet containing his life story. He had become a nineteenth century super-star.

    Back in 1855, Gottschalk served on a panel that judged American made pianos. They ultimately concluded that a little known manufacturer from New York, Steinway, was the best and remarked that they had not heard of them prior to the assessment. That said, the piano roost in America in 1862 was ruled by the Chickering Company. During Gottschalk's civil war tour, he teamed up with the Chickering Piano Company and agreed to promote Chickering's pianos on his tours. Chickering, in turn, agreed to pay him a commission for every instrument he sold and made available to him, two of their latest models and a tuner who followed Gottschalk everywhere he went. Gottschalk was occasionally chided for his promotion of Chickering but honestly regarded their pianos as superior.

    Strakosch, like many managers of the time, realized that a variety of performers would sell more tickets than a one man show so, when the initial excitement of Gottschalk's return settled down, he asked Jacob Grau to hire several singers to travel with Gottschalk. The singers Grau assembled were first rate and included Carlotta Patti
Carlotta Patti
1840 - 1889
, Adelina's sister and Pasquale Brignoli
Pasquale Brignoli
1824 - 1884
. With the singers acting as a miniature opera company and Gottschalk head lining, the group set out in March 1862 on a 'Western Tour'. Their travels took them to New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, back to Ohio then New York City. Everywhere they went, Gottschalk stole the show.

    At the conclusion of that tour, he rested in New Jersey then returned to New York City. There he continued to rest and took on a very young Venezuelan student by the name of Teresa Carreño. Gottschalk rarely took on students and was skeptical of prodigies but Carreño was an exception and he was determined that she succeed. With his busy schedule, Gottschalk was only able to give her a handful of lessons yet she would remember him fondly and performed his music for the rest of her days. A year after meeting Gottschalk, she performed for Abraham Lincoln and would go on to become a renowned concert pianist earning the nickname, "Valkyrie of the Piano."

    After a series of eight successful concerts at Irving Hall in New York, Gottschalk felt it was time to play Boston, something he had been avoiding. Back in 1853, he had been mauled by the press, particularly Dwight's Music Journal. In October 1862, he performed at Chickering Hall
Chickering Hall, Boston
in Boston amid thunderous applause.

    Strakosch organized other tours of the north during which Gottschalk's celebrity surpassed that of every performer in America. The fame came at a price though as Gottschalk found himself locked into a monotonous routine of long hours on trains broken only by quick performances then back on the train.   From Gottschalk's Journal -

Indianapolis, December 15

    "I live on the railroad—my home is somewhere between the baggage car and the last car of the train . . . If you ask me what time it is, I will reply, " It is time to shut up my trunk," or "It is time to play the banjo," or "It is time to put on my black coat." These three events are very nearly the most memorable of my daily existence . . ."

New York, December

    ". . . Eighteen hours a day on the railroad! Arrive at seven o'clock in the evening, eat with all speed, appear at eight o'clock before the public. The last note finished, rush quickly for my luggage, and en route until next day to recommence always the same thing! I have become stupid with it. I have the appearance of an automaton under the influence of a voltaic pile . . ."

Alexandria, April 27

    ". . . I know, with my eyes shut, every one of the inextricable cross-threads that form the network of the railroads with which New England is covered. The railroad conductors salute me familiarly as one of the employes [sic]. The young girls at the refreshment-room of the station, where five minutes are given, select for me the best cut of ham, and sugar my tea with the obliging smile that all well-taught tradespeople owe to their customers . . ."


    In January of 1863 the monotony was interrupted when Gottschalk received news that his brother Edward was deathly ill with tuberculosis and would be arriving in New York with his other brother, Gaston. Moreau remained with Edward until he died on September 28, 1863. Afterwards, Gottschalk resumed his touring and for two more years he kept up the pace, pausing only for brief off season vacations. At one point the Home Journal published an article stating that he had given one thousand concerts and traveled eight thousand miles. Incensed at the inaccuracy, he wrote the editor and demanded a correction. He pointed out, "It should read not eight thousand but eighty thousand miles." In the spring of 1864 at a concert in Washington, President Lincoln, the First Lady and Secretary Seward were in attendance. In his journal, Gottschalk irreverently commented, "Lincoln is remarkably ugly."

    Juxtaposing the tedium of endless concerts and rail travel was the grim reality that the Civil War was raging on. The war had no direct affect on Gottschalk as northerners were hungry for entertainment. Still, he frequently observed large numbers of fresh troops headed for the front and the wounded and dead returning. On one occasion though, the monotony of concertizing was broken when his travels brought him too close to the fighting. En route to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Gottschalk recorded the incident in detail in his journal -

Williamsport, Pennsylvania June 15, 1863    

    "5 P. M. Another despatch from the Governor of Pennsylvania calling all able-bodied citizens to arms. The Confederates, says the despatch, have seized Martinsburg, and are making forced marches on Hagerstown. This last town is only forty-five miles from the State capital. I go out into the streets. The crowds multiply and increase every moment. Fresh despatches [sic] received excite the greatest consternation. The Confederates are marching on Harrisburg . . ."

    After performing at Williamsport, Gottschalk recorded that Strakosch, convinced that matters were exaggerated, continued towards Harrisburg and intended to carry on with the concert. At the same time, the Confederate Second Corps under Gen. Ewell
Gen. Richard S. Ewell
1817 - 1872
was advancing on Harrisburg. Neither Strakosch nor anyone else could know that Gen. Robert E. Lee's push into Pennsylvania would culminate two weeks later in a place called Gettysburg.


The bridge on the Susquehanna where Gottschalk's train was stopped at Harrisburg, Harper's Weekly, June 18, 1863.

    Just outside of Harrisbug Federal troops stopped Gottschalk's train on the bridge over the Susquehanna River. Tired of the suspense, Strakosch, Madame Amalia Patti and Gottschalk walk to the station where they observed mountains of trunks and later on, he caught sight of his two pianos. In his journal Gottschalk speculates on the possibility that the Chickering's could end up in a Confederate campfire. At one point, the telegraph advises that Confederate forces are eighteen miles away. After more than an hour of observing the general pandemonium, Strakosch concedes the concert will not take place. Gottschalk then recorded -

    "[1 P. M.] Carriages, carts, chariots, indeed all the vehicles in the city have been put in requisition. The poor are moving in wheelbarrows . . . A long convoy comes in with ten locomotives in front. It brings cannons, caissons, and many steam-engines in course of construction, which have been sent to Harrisburg to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. The confusion is at its height. Cattle bellowing, frightened mules, prancing horses, the noisy crowd, the whistling locomotives, the blinding dust, the burning sun . . ."

    Later that day, Strakosch, Gottschalk and the others made it out of Harrisburg on a train consisting of nine cars into which were packed two thousand people. The Chickering tuner was beside himself as the pianos had gone missing and the freight company refused to take responsibility. For all of the excitement of that day, it would not be the only time Gottschalk found himself between opposing armies.

    In 1864 Strakosch found greener pastures and left Gottschalk who then teamed up with a new manager, Emanuele Muzio
Emanuele Muzio
1821 - 1890
. By 1865 the interest in Gottschalk had begun to cool and it was decided to move on to the promised land of California.




San Francisco, California

    he five months that Gottschalk was to spend in California were typical, more or less, of his tours up to that point. What distinguished the California tour from previous crusades was his very sudden departure amidst scandal and even calls for him to be tarred and featured. He himself, feared lynching.

    In 1865 there were but two ways to get to California. One could join a wagon train leaving Missouri and spend five miserable months crossing prairie, mountains and desert, or simply book passage on a ship and arrive in about a month. On April 2, 1865 Gottschalk, Muzio and a band of opera singers, including soprano Lucy Simons and tenor Giovanni Sbriglia
Giovanni Sbriglia
1832 - 1916
, embarked the steamer Ariel in New York and set out for Panama. The first part of the journey was uneventful and they docked in Aspinwall
Aspinwall, Panama
, now called Colón, on April 12. Crossing the isthmus by train to Panama City, they boarded the steamship Constitution for the Pacific part of the voyage. The second part of their journey was not so ordinary. After a brief stop in Acapulco, the Constitution was continuing north when it was hailed by a passing ship.

    Gottschalk recorded the meeting at sea -
April 23.
    "A steamer in sight! It is the Golden City, which left San Francisco two days ago. The captain comes on board, and, in the midst of questions from all the passengers that encumber the staircase, hurls these words like thunderbolts, "Richmond is taken," "Lee has surrendered," "Lincoln has been assassinated . . ." [ 5 ]L. M. Gottschalk, Notes of a Pianist, pg. 359.

    For American citizens, those ten words represented the very best and very worst news. The rest of the voyage was somber as passengers and crew grieved the loss of Lincoln, except for a few Secessionists who gloated. Later that evening a meeting was held onboard where participants voted resolutions of fidelity to the government, the memory of the great Lincoln, and of horror for the act which terminated his noble career. The war was over, the Union stood intact.

    On 27 April the band of performers arrived in San Francisco. Gottschalk had not brought a piano with him, however, Chickering had made arrangements with the company of Badger & Lindenberger, a Chickering dealer, to provide a piano. In order to secure a suitable venue it was necessary to do business with Thomas Maguire, the de facto entertainment czar, who was also known as the Napoleon of the Stage. He owned several of the theaters throughout San Francisco and the surrounding areas and made available to Gottschalk and his fellow performers, the Academy of Music. There he played six concerts, to mixed reviews, one of which was a less than flattering article by a fledgling reporter who used the pen name Mark Twain. He then performed at the Oakland Female College, also a lukewarm reception and after another concert at the Academy of Music featuring six pianos and twelve players, Gottschalk, Muzio and Lucy Simons set out for Sacramento, where they were well received.

    Further travels took them to the mining town of Virginia City, Nevada where the mostly male population, though they didn't understand his music, loved his playing. Despite his warm reception there, Gottschalk found Virginia city to be "the most inhospitable and the saddest town that I have ever visited." Gottschalk and company then worked their way back to San Francisco stopping in numerous towns along the way.

    The contract that bound Muzio and Gottschalk expired upon their return to San Francisco whereupon Gottschalk managed himself. After a series of more or less successful concerts, Gottschalk set his sights on South America, booked passage on a steamer headed south and scheduled a farewell concert. Then at the farewell concert something unexpected happened. He suddenly became the toast of San Francisco. His playing was received with thunderous applause and seeing opportunity, stayed on in San Francisco. On the crest of his sudden celebrity, Gottschalk staged three concerts utilizing ten pianos that were much lauded. This sudden notoriety led to invitations to parties, balls and dinners and his presence was in high demand. At the height this Gottschalk frenzy, he was presented with a gold medal encrusted with jewels.

    Gottschalk was making arrangements for a monster concert with thirty pianos and orchestra when the scandalous incident occurred. The long and short it, he and an acquaintance allegedly met with two un-chaperoned school girls on a dark secluded road. Newspapers at the time did not mention Gottschalk by name but given his recent notoriety, the identity of the 'libertine' was clear since the paper referred to "a strolling pianist." Three days after the alleged incident, Gottschalk, in disguise and using an alias, boarded a ship bound for Panama.

    Over the years a number of versions and reconstructions of the event have surfaced all of which contain contradictory details. The reader is no doubt aware that unraveling the details of such events 150 years after the fact is no easy task. However, in 1984 a trunk belonging to a descendant of Gottschalk and containing Gottschalk papers and possessions was acquired by the New York Public Library, Music Division. The trunk had been collecting dust in a Philadelphia basement and among the papers was a draft of a letter, in Gottschalk's hand, to an unknown addressee (possibly Charles Chickering) wherein Gottschalk provides his account of what occurred on that evening.

    Gottschalk writes in the letter that on Friday, the 15th of September 1865, he decided to order a new hat and called on a hat maker whose acquaintance he had recently made. Upon entering the hatter's shop, he was greeted by Charles Legay, the owner. "Why, my dear G[ottschalk], this is providential! I wanted precisely to see you; here is something which concerns you". [ 6 ]Richard Jackson, More Notes of a Pianist: A Gottschalk collection Surveyed and a Scandal Revisited, pg. 19 (370). See links section. Legay had an anonymous letter from a secret admirer who, it turned out, was enrolled in the Oakland Female Seminary and was twenty years old. In the letter she proposed a rendezvous that evening on a deserted road. She asked Legay to bring a 'friend' as she herself would be accompanied by a friend and specifically requested he bring either Sbriglia, the tenor or Gottschalk. Gottschalk's response was to inform Legay that, as a matter of course, he ignored anonymous letters. At length, Gottschalk was persuaded but missed the ferry going to Oakland and had to hire a rowboat. Upon arriving in Oakland he searched every hotel, looking for Legay and not being able to locate him had given up on the adventure when he suddenly appeared in a carriage. After a half hour ride, the two men left the carriage and waited in the dark for another half hour when they heard a cough and smothered laugh from the bushes. It was the girls. While Legay visited with his admirer, Gottschalk spoke to other girl. At first, he was not able to see the her clearly in the darkness but eventually recognized her. He had seen her before at the home of a Lady he had visited and knew her as the girl "whom every one in any way connected with theatrical circles knew to have been flirting notoriously with Sbriglia the tenor." At that point he realized he was "nothing but a substitute, the 'small change' of Sbriglia and several others and in my spite I told the girl frankly so." She became defensive and Gottschalk states that their conversation was "anything but tender." Gottschalk and Legay left girls on the road who were later caught when they attempted to return to the Seminary.

    Initially, Gottschalk was not concerned over the nocturnal meeting and performed the next evening at a benefit for Sbriglia. When the story broke though, he realized emotions were running high and that his best course was to flee. The question remains, what happened that night? In truth, no one knows nor will we ever know, leaving one to speculate endless if-then scenarios. Some scholars have devised intricate plots wherein Gottschalk was 'set up' pointing to Maguire and Muzio, each having their own motives for such a vindictive act. And of course, there is the burning question, was there sex involved. When things settled down, San Francisco papers admitted that Gottschalk was likely guilty of little more than poor judgment.



    fter leaving San Francisco, the steamer Colorado, with Gottschalk onboard, proceeded to Panama City where it arrived on 1 October. A few days after arriving Gottschalk played at a hastily organized subscription concert where he was able to put one hundred forty dollars in his pocket. By October 10, Gottschalk was off for Peru on an English steamer. Peru at that time was in the midst of revolution, something that Gottschalk was aware of but for some reason felt compelled to go anyway. In truth, the unrest extended beyond Peru into Chile as well. The steamer arrived at the port of Callao, Peru on 18 October and a train took him the remaining short distance to the capitol of Lima.

    With the hotel rooms full, Gottschalk found himself staying with a Frenchman by the name of Ernest Dupeyron and from his journal, we learn that Gottschalk was enjoying himself. His stay then took a sudden turn on November 6 -
November 6, 4 o'clock in the morning.

    "Started up awakened by a noise. Firmin, my factotum, calls me. "They are fighting, sir," he calls out to me. Indeed firing succeeded rapidly in opposite directions. It approached. The whole house is aroused. The battle, if it takes place, will be under our windows, for at the corner of our street, that is to say, at the distance of twenty yards, is the square, or palace of the government and the municipality, which occupies two sides of the square. The discharge of musketry increases. A cannon shot. Are these the revolutionary troops? . . ." [ 5 ]L. M. Gottschalk, Notes of a Pianist, pg. 421.


    Not only had the revolution come to Lima but to the center of the city where Dupeyron lived, near the Plaza de Armas. In his journal, Gottschalk gives a blow by blow account of the battle and at one point was narrowly missed by a musket ball. By November 17 things had sufficiently settled down to allow Gottschalk to perform at the Teatro Municipal. The enthusiastic reception was beyond anything he expected and the series of eight concerts turned out to be very profitable.

    After his experience in Lima, Gottschalk had planned to go to Chile but news of fighting there with the Spanish deterred him and he instead stopped in Tacna, Peru. Astonishingly, after a short stay at Tacna, Gottschalk decided to continue to Valparaíso, Chile; a city that had just been bombarded by the Spanish Navy. His stay there was brief though as he proceeded to Santiago by train where he was to be a guest of the US Embassy in Chile.

    Gottschalk enjoyed a successful stay in Santiago performing 15 concerts there. The conclusion to that series was a monster benefit concert involving 350 musicians. He then returned to Valparaíso where they had heard of the monster concert in Santiago and insisted that he organize one for them. This time Gottschalk relied on more amateurs and local talent giving the whole affair a decided community feel, guaranteeing success. After traveling the coast of Chile Gottschalk rounded Strait of Magellan and headed for Montevideo, Uruguay where he arrived on May 25, 1866. Chickering, who rejected Gottschalk's culpability in the San Francisco incident, shipped two pianos to Uruguay that arrived in September. The exuberant response received in Lima and Santiago was repeated in Montevideo. In the midst of this acclaim, he premiered a piece for piano and orchestra that had been evolving for more than a decade, the Grand Tarantelle for piano and orchestra. The public went wild for the showpiece and it quickly became his workhorse.


    In October of 1867, Gottschalk crossed the Rio de Plata and landed at Buenos Aires, Argentina. There he performed several concerts at the Teatro Colón and Coliseo where the crowds were again wild with enthusiasm. When a cholera epidemic broke out in Buenos Aires in January 1868 he left and went to the town of Las Conchas then briefly explored the interior of Argentina where he stumbled into a civil war and decided to return to Buenos Aires. While traveling in the Argentine countryside he wrote Bataille 'Étude de concert', Dernier amour 'Étude de concert' and other pieces.

    When he returned to Buenos Aires he held several benefits in the wake of the cholera losses which amounted to thousands of lives. It was around this time that he premiered Morte!! (She is Dead) Lamentation, another of his sentimental pieces that took off like a roller coaster. Upon returning to Montevideo in August of 1868, he discovered that in his absence, the decaying political situation had caused Montevideo to fall into near anarchy. Nonetheless, he kept performing and in November 1868, at a 'monster' concert, he conducted the premiere of his Symphony No 2 (Á Montevideo). Later in November he went to Buenos Aires for his final concerts there. Afterwards, he stayed in the town of San Isidro arriving in December. There he rested and composed several pieces including Tremolo, Impromptu and Grand Scherzo. References in a letter from this time indicate the probable existence of a third symphony, now lost.




The city of Rio de Janeiro as seen from Castelo, Lluchar Desmons


    he finale to Gottschalk's life began in mid April of 1869 when he departed Argentina for Rio de Janeiro. His intended destination was New York with Rio serving as a layover where he planned a few concerts. The California incident had faded and Strakosch was luring him to New York with a lucrative contract but favorable circumstances in Brazil prolonged his stay there. As had happened in the Caribbean, what started as a brief visit turned into an extended stay.

    He arrived in Rio May 3 to find that his Chickerings had failed meet him. Unable to find a suitable instrument, his concerts were delayed and he ultimately settled on a Broadwood. In Rio he ran into an old friend he knew from Cuba, Arthur Napoleão
Arthur Napoleão dos Santos
1843 - 1925
who would become his right hand man in Rio. When he finally began performing, the reception surpassed anything he had ever experienced. Gottschalk was wined and dined throughout Rio, newspapers wrote endlessly about him, merchants attached his name to their wares and Emperor Don Pedro attended all his concerts. Rio loved him and he in turn wrote a showpiece based on the Brazilian national anthem, Grande fantaisie triomphale sur l'hymne national brésilien and another piece for piano and orchestra based on the Portugese national anthem, Variations de concert sur l'hymne portugais. Also from this time is a piece that has long been asserted to be his final composition, Forget me not. Ne m’oubliez pas, a charming mazurka.

    Gottschalk was once again riding the crest when on August 1, he became deathly ill, probably from malaria. By mid August he had recovered and visited the town of Valençe then São Paulo, finally returning to Rio where he organized three monster concerts for two orchestras and sixteen pianos. This wasn't enough it seemed and Gottschalk set about organizing the ultimate monster concert, a concerto monstro. Bands from the Brazilian military and four complete orchestras added up to 650 musicians and once again Gottschalk was faced with the mammoth task of producing the parts. The first concert on November 24 went brilliantly, however, Gottschalk was completely exhausted from having put it together and remained in bed all of the next day. Obliged to play that evening, he got dressed and went to the Theatro Lyrico Fluminense. There he had just played his new piece Morte! and had begun to play his concert etude Tremolo when he collapsed and was carried off the stage. The second round of the concerto monstro was scheduled for the following day and Gottschalk showed up but again collapsed as he approached the podium. He was attended by the Emperor Don Pedro's personal doctor and on December 8 he was moved to the village of Tijuca where his condition did not improve.

    What ailed him? Evidence suggests he was experiencing appendicitis that likely burst on December 14. On that date his fever left and he suddenly felt better, a typical reaction to burst appendix. This however is generally followed by peritonitis and on the morning of 18 December 1869, Gottschalk took his last breath. The official cause of death was listed as "incurable galloping pleuropneumonia" an archaic medical term. He succumbed to peritonitis aggravated by overwork. On October 3, 1870, more than nine months after his death, he was laid to rest in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.



This on-line account of Gottschalk's life is a biographical sketch. For a detailed look at the composer's life, see Louis Moreau Gottschalk, by S. Frederick Starr and Gottschalk's own journal, Notes of a Pianist, both of which where consulted for this extract. Also see the bibliography page of www.gottschalk.fr and the links section of this site.