51elFUJVORL._SS500 “Give me your hand, my child; I predict that you will become the king of pianists.

So said Fryderyk Chopin to American pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, after hearing him perform at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. Alkan and Liszt also recognised Gottschalk’s impressive talents, and, perhaps in homage to his European virtuoso counterparts, there are distinctly Lisztian idioms in the Symphonie Romantique “La nuit des tropiques”, which opens Cuban-American pianist Antonio Itturioz’s new recording ‘Gottschalk and Cuba’.

The Symphonie Romantique is especially significant as this is a world premiere recording of the first American symphony, transcribed in its entirety for one piano, as Gottschalk originally intended it and based on Antonio Itturioz’s extensive research. The second movement, ‘Fiesta Criolla’, is heard in Itturioz’s own transcription for one piano for the very first time, thus making this a historic recording. In its solo piano form, the work has a Lisztian grandeur with many complex virtuosic passages and rich textures.

Gottschalk was America’s first important pianist-composer. He was also an extraordinary traveler, giving virtuoso performances in Europe, Central and South America and the Caribbean. He fell in love with Cuba and its music, and lived there for extended periods. As a composer, his music combined his Creole heritage with the American, Latin American and Afro-Caribbean influences he absorbed during his travels – all expressed within the boundaries of classical piano writing prevalent in the 19th century.

The Symphonie Romantique provides the starting point for a chronological tour through Cuban classical music, much of it never before recorded. Piano music by Manuel Saumell Robredo, Nicholas Ruiz Espadero, Ignacio Cervantes, Hubert de Blanck, and Ernesto Lecuona features on this album, revealing Gottschalk’s influence and the high regard with which he was held by those who followed him. Many of the works show the influence of nineteenth-century European virtuoso pianist-composers – Chopin, Liszt, Alkan – shot through with the distinctly Afro-Cuban, Cuban and Creole rhythms and folk idioms. There are hints of ragtime and jazz too – a reminder of Gottschalk’s wide-ranging influence on American music of the 20th century. The album closes with Gottschalk’s El Cocoye, Op 80.

Itturioz’s own Cuban heritage allows him to really get to the heart of this music, and his understanding and insight is clear from the outset. The sensuous, foot-tapping rhythms feel natural and uncontrived, heady harmonic shadings are neatly caught, while the virtuosic passages are executed with aplomb. The overall sound is warm, romantic, lush and exotic.

A generous introduction to the classical piano music of Cuba and an important contribution to the appreciation and understanding of Gottschalk’s work and influence. Includes detailed liner notes by Gottschalk biographer, Dr. S. Frederick Starr.

Released on the Steinway & Sons label and available as a CD or digital download.

Recommended.

Meet the Artist interview with Antonio Itturioz

 

Gottschalk and Cuba is a journey through 150 years of music which started with a 19th-century American pianist-composer visiting Havana in Cuba and a 21st-century Cuban pianist who came to America telling the story……

548f7ab6a0c07_louis_moreau_gottschalkNew Orleans born Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) was one of the most astonishing keyboard virtuosos in 19th-century America. But he was much more than that. He was America’s first important pianist-composer. He was an extraordinary traveler, bringing his virtuosity to Europe, to Central and South America and to the Caribbean, where he lived in Cuba for extended periods. As a composer, his unique style combined his Creole musical heritage with the American, Latin American and Afro-Caribbean influences he absorbed during his travels – all expressed within the boundaries of classical piano writing prevalent in the 19th century. Gottschalk made friends wherever he traveled and these far-reaching connections are the subject of Cuban pianist Antonio Itturioz‘s new project Gottschalk and Cuba, a CD containing aantonio world premiere recording of the entire Nuit des Tropiques, Symphony Romantique, both movements, on one piano. The programme also features Antonio’s transcription for solo piano of the second movement (Fiesta Criolla) of Gottschalk’s monumental Nuit des Tropiques, (Night in the Tropics), a symphony Gottschalk wrote on the island of Martinique after living several years in Cuba. It is a historic work because it is the first symphony written by an American composer. After Gottschalk’s death, his friend Nicolas Ruiz Espadero published a two-piano version of this symphony which is the basis for Antonio’s transcription. In addition, the CD features piano music by well-known Cuban composers whose works all have connections to Gottschalk in one way or another.

More information about Antonio Itturioz’s ‘Gottschalk and Cuba’ kickstarter project here

Interview with Antonio Itturioz