New Orleans-based Romantic composer and virtuosic pianist. I’ve created a playlist on Spotify, which I’ve been enjoying this lovely afternoon.
Gottschalk was born to a Jewish businessman from London and a Creole mother in New Orleans, where he was exposed to a variety of musical traditions. He had six brothers and sisters, five of whom were half-siblings by his father’s mulatto mistress. His family lived for a time in a tiny cottage at Royal and Esplanade in the Vieux Carré. Louis later moved in with relatives at 518 Conti Street; his maternal grandmother Buslé and his nurse Sally had both been born in Saint-Domingue (known later as Haiti). Gottschalk played the piano from an early age and was soon recognized as a prodigy by the New Orleans bourgeois establishment. In 1840, he gave his informal public debut at the new St. Charles Hotel.
Only two years later at the age of 13, Gottschalk left the United States and sailed to Europe, as he and his father realized a classical training was required to fulfill his musical ambitions. The Paris Conservatoire, however, rejected his application without hearing him on the grounds of his nationality; Pierre Zimmermann, head of the piano faculty, commented that “America is a country of steam engines”. Gottschalk gradually gained access to the musical establishment through family friends. [shocking – ed.]
By the 1860s, Gottschalk had established himself as the best known pianist in the New World. Although born and reared in New Orleans, he was a supporter of the Union cause during the American Civil War. He returned to his native city only occasionally for concerts, but Gottschalk always introduced himself as a New Orleans native.
NEW ORLEANS, let’s keep our greatest here at home from now on, okay?
You can check out his music here or watch this amateur (but good) video here: