GOTTSCHALK

GOTTSCHALK

In the fall of 1862 Lang was hired as accompanist by Gottschalk who was so impressed with his playing that he hired him as a “collaborator for a series of twenty concerts, in which compositions for two pianos were the features.” (Boston Transcript, May 9, 1909) The connection between Gottschalk and Lang may have been made by Lang’s early piano teacher, Francis G. Hill who was a friend of Gottschalk (see letters from Gottschalk to Hill in NOTES OF A PIANIST). These concerts were part of an incredible tour beginning in New York City in February 1862 and ending in California in September 1865 during which Gottschalk “estimated that he had given some 1,100 American recitals and traveled some 95,000 miles. During this time he did more than any other American musician to obliterate the line between high and popular art (NEW GROVE article by Irving Lowens and S. Frederick Starr, p. 200).

The Boston Musical Times announced the coming concerts in this manner: “Gottschalk is coming at last. His concerts will commence on the 17th. How he has been prevailed upon to break his self-imposed barrier of hate of Boston, we do not know nor care; but can only congratulate him on his good sense in doing so. We doubt not that he will be received in the most friendly manner, and add a large ”Boston quota” to his already immense list of admirers-particularly among the gentler sex.” (BMT, October 4, 1862, p. 118) This hatred of Boston was probably based on his appearances nine years before where “he imagined he was received with unaccountable coldness.” (BMT, November 1, 1862, p. 134) In October 1862 Dwight wrote an extensive article about “Gottschalk”s Concerts” in the middle of the five concerts that the pianist had announced which did acknowledge that Gottschalk was a fine pianist: his “touch is the most remarkable we ever heard; in power, in fineness, in free vibratory singing quality it leaves nothing to be desired.” Then Dwight reviewed Gottschalk”s compostions using phrases such as “fine finger tricks…a freak…jack o”lantern freaks in it.” Dwight wrote of the “William Tell Overture” arranged for two pianos with Lang at the one piano playing the original parts and Gottschalk at the other piano “now trilling and twiddlidg, with senseless, painful repetition, in those piccolo octaves, now startling by a tremendous rush upon the lowest bass-and this was the arrangement!…Our excellent pianist, Mr. Lang, we pitied him.” (Dwight, October 18, 1862, p. 231) However not all agreed with Dwight. After a tepid response to the first concert, Gottschalk”s success was so great during this October series of concerts that “Chickering”s Hall was found to be too small for the increasing numbers, and the Melodean was secured, and this spacious [Music] Hall could not accommodate the audience at the last concert. (Ibid) The announcement for the Boston “Second Grand Concert” on Monday Oct. 11, 1862 included the phrases, “Mr. B. J. Lang, The Distinguished Pianist, has consented to assist Mr. Gottschalk in this Concert.” They ended the concert with the four-hand version of Ojos Criollos (Danse Cubaine, Caprice Brillante, Opus 37); earlier they had played Marche Funebre by Gottschalk. During the first part of the concert they played Grand Duet from William Tell as arranged by Gottschalk. Miss Caliste Huntley and Mr. J. Eichberg, violinist were also assisting artists. Tickets were $1. The announcement for Gottschalk’s “Most Positively Last Concert in Boston” on Saturday, Oct. 18, 1862 (which had to be moved to the Melodean Theater in order to accommodate the expected crowds with reserved seats at 75 cents and unreserved seats at 50 cents), also said “Mr. B. J. Lang, The Distinguished Pianist, has consented to assist Mr. Gottschalk in his Last Concert.” They performed the Duett di Bravura on themes from Trovatore for two pianos that had been originally composed for performance with Mr. Sigismond Thalberg, and which was “performed with immense success, for the first time in New York on the 25th. of December, 1856. Mr. Lang will perform which was played by Mr. Thalberg.” (HMA Program Collection) (Doyle, p. 76-77) quotes the New York Times critic as saying that

The fourth piece on the programme was the great attraction of the evening…a grand duet on themes from Il Trovatore, composed expressly for this occasion (Dec. 26, 1856) by Mr. Gottschalk and performed by that gentleman and Mr. Thalberg. Bravura pieces of this kind do not invite criticism. They are written for a certain purpose, and the test of their excellence is the success they achieve. Judged by that standard Mr. Gottschalk’s duet is an extraordinary production. The Audience was electrified with it, and, notwithstanding its length and difficulty, demanded an encore. (Doyle, p. 302 and 303)

Doyle continues with a first witness source written by Richard Hoffman, who himself, performed many times with Gottschalk. Writing fifty years after the event in 1896, he remembered a remarkable double shake which Thalberg played in the middle of the piano, while Gottschalk was flying all over the keyboard in the Anvil Chorus, produced the most prodigious volume of tone I ever heard from the piano. (Doyle, p. 303)

The Thalberg part was the one that B. J. would have performed. Because of its effectiveness, it seems that Gottschalk continued to perform this work for the rest of his career. However, the manuscript seems to be lost. This Boston concert ended with Gottschalk’s Ojos Criollos for two pianos. Also appearing as guest artists on this concert were Miss Annie M. Granger and Mr. Eichberg. (HMA, Concert Program Collection) Gottschalk then went on to play in Norwich on October 20 and New York City on October 21. Dwight”s review of these five October concerts included remarks about Gottschalk”s arrangement of the William Tell Overture. “It consisted of an ordinary piano arrangement, played, with certain omissions before agreed upon, &c., by our excellent pianist, Mr. Lang (we pitied him), while the arranger, at his more brilliant instrument, piled upon it such tours de force as served to illustrate his own virtuosity rather than the overture, now trilling and twiddling, with senseless, painful repetition, in those piccolo octaves, now startling by a tremendous rush upon the lower bass,-and this was the ”arrangement”!…This was simply abominable in an artistic view.” However Dwight did admit that Gottschalk was a fine pianist. “He is first of all and mainly a pianist. All that he does begins with the Piano; if he invent, if he compose, the inspiration seems to come from that instrument…He has certainly a most rare power of bringing out the tone, all the best qualities of that often disparaged, but really noble instrument….His mastery of that instrument, his identification of his own will with it, is the great wonder in him; this is what strikes his audience first and last.” (Dwight, October 18, 1862, p. 231)

The Chicago critic George P. Upton described Gottschalk as having “an extremely delicate touch, and a singing quality which I have never heard excelled. And yet he had great power when it was needed, for he was a very strong man, notwithstanding his delicate appearance. Personally he was very fascinating. He had beautiful hands, and was as vain of them as Artemus Ward used to be of his. He had a fastidious way of encasing them in the most immaculate of gloves, which it took him some time to remove before he began to play. This was not an affectation, as many thought. He said it gave him time to compose himself and get at ease. As he was very shy, he did not make many intimate friends.” When Upton asked him about his repertoire choices, Gottschalk reply was that “the dear public don”t want to hear me play it [classical repertoire]. People would rather hear” my own pieces. “Besides, there are plenty of pianists who can play that music as well or better than I can, but none of them can play my music half so well as I can. And what difference will it make a thousand years hence, anyway?” (Upton, pp. 77 and 78)

The success of these first Boston concerts led to a repeat set the next month, and we find an announcement for Saturday, Nov. 15, 1862 saying that “In consequence of the crowded state of the Hall at the Concert on Wednesday Evening, and the large number of persons who were unable to gain admittance,” Mr. Gottschalk will give “One More concert.” The soprano Miss Carlotta Patti and B. J. were the assisting artists with Mr. S. Behrens listed as Musical Director and Conductor; the Duett di Bravura was included again. Gottschalk’s NOTES OF A PIANIST mentions further concerts in Boston. “November 30-Concert at Boston. Very great success…December 2-Concert at Boston. Great success…December 3-Matinee in the “Music Hall” with the grand organ. L___ plays remarkably.” (Gottschalk, p. 309) One presumes that L___ refers to B. J. Gottschalk appreciated not only the Boston organ, “That glorious monument,” but also its concert halls. “Boston possesses what New York has not yet contained, two concert halls, which are in no wise inferior to any of the largest concert halls in the world, and which, as to acoustics, I consider superior to the best of this continent and of the old world [Tremont Hall and Music Hall]” (Gottschalk, p. 311) In a letter dated February 26, 1864 he raves that “Boston…is par excellence the aristocratic city. It pretends to be the most intellectual in the United States. It is not to be denied that it has made enormous progress in the sciences and arts. The university at Cambridge is the most celebrated in the United States. Her poets are known the world over. She has for eight years possessed the largest organ in America…Boston has six theaters and three concert halls, two of which can seat thirty-five hundred persons. It is in one of these, the Tremont, that I gave my concerts. It is in my opinion the best for hearing and the most magnificent concert hall in the world. (Tara, FROM PSALM TO SYMPHONY, p. 112) In addition to B. J. Lang, “Mr. Gottschalk was assisted at his concerts here by Mr. Julius Eichberg, who had played with him several years ago in Geneva, and by Mrs. Motte, and Misses Huntley and Granger.” (BMT, November 1, 1862, p.135)

About six months later Gottschalk again returned to Boston, and in order to attract the audiences, had a bigger and better program. For his “Grand Sacred Concert” on Sunday May 10, 1863 held at the Boston Theater the Bretto Brothers were the featured performers. Bernard, a violinist aged eleven and his brother, Richard, a cornetist aged seven were given top billing with Lang having second billing. In fact the playbill looked like a circus announcement listing all the various acts in many different typefaces and sizes! “Mr. Gottschalk himself comes to us flushed with recent fresh triumphs in New York, where at Irving Hall, he has given concert after concert, to large and critical audiences. It is delightful to know that he will introduce some of his new compositions never before performed in Boston.” BMT, May 2, 1863, p. 37) The grand finale of this ”Grand Concert” was the newly composed Grand March from Tannhauser in Gottschalk’s arrangement for FOUR pianos-the players were: Gottschalk, Lang, G. W. Steele and S. Behrens. An interesting anecdote about this piece was given by the composer himself who related that at a San Francisco performance featuring local amateur pianists: “The most complaisant ear would have hardly been able to distinguish any shreds of Wagner’s theme floating here and there like waifs in the midst of an ocean of false notes, in a deafening storm of continuous pedal (the storm cannot be described), and of the complete wreck of the measure and spirit of the author; it was no longer to be thought of.” (Doyle, p. 326) However greater effects were heard in a Rio de Janeiro performance where thirty-one pianists and two orchestras were used. All that exists of these various scores is only a single piano part, marked Piano C, which is a five-page autograph (Doyle, p. 326). A notice in the Boston Musical Times stated that the piece “was better fitted for a grand jubilee entertainment than for a sacred concert on a sacred evening…The pianist [Gottschalk] played in his usual showy manner, exciting the admiration of very young ladies and the criticism of connoisseurs.” (BMT, June 6, 1863) The same notice mentioned that three different halls had been used for this cycle of concerts-Tremont Temple, the Boston Theatre, and Chickerings” Hall. Lang received a separate paragraph that equalled one-third of the length of the review: “Mr. B. J. Lang has supported Gottschalk in all his concerts, and though there is less dash and gymnastic exercise, in his fingering and in his manner, his performance on the piano was quite as good. He is a fine artist, conscientious, industrious. A musician who believes in all that is intrinsically most valuable to his art, and does what he c an to make it apparent; but he is as modest as he is skillful, and is therefore regarded by the unsophisticated, as a supporter rather than as a star himself. His pianism added much to the excellence of Gottschalk”s entertainments.” (Ibid)

The only sacred aspect of this concert was that it was held on a Sunday. On Friday at 2PM of this same week at Chickering”s Music Hall, a “One Matinee Musicale…Previous to his positive departure for New York” was advertised-tichets were 75 cents. At this May 15th. concert Gottschalk and S. Behrens did Gottschalk’s arrangement of the Overture to William Tell and Gottschalk’s own Reponds Moi (Danse Cubaine, Opus 50), and the concert ended with Lang appearing again for the Duett di Bravura from Trovatore. An ad at the bottom of the program mentioned that that “Gottschalk’s Illustrated Concert Book” was available where he talked about how to perform his pieces, had pictures of other assisting performers, and twelve pages of music. Dwight noticed Gottschalk”s November 1863 concerts with the following: “Gottschalk has given three or four concerts of his own fashionable and peculiar music here during the past fortnight, aided by Mlle. Cordier, the singer, and another little Patti, master Carlo, who gives promise with the violin.” (Dwight, November 28, 1863, p. 143) The following shows that Gottschalk was affected by Dwight”s attacks on his own compositions. “At one concert, Gottschalk took a delicious revenge on Dwight on behalf of American composers eveerywhere. He played a work of his own and attributed it to Beethoven in the program, also playing a Beethoven work identified as his own; Dwight, predictably, praised the ”Beethoven” composition and lambasted Gottschalk”s music for its ”amateurish inanities.” Afterwards, Gottschalk wrote to Dwight to apologize for the unfortunate error.” (Gann, Internet article,11/3/11)

The four-hand arrangements of both Ojos criollos (written 1859 and published in New York in 1860) and Reponds-moi (written also in 1859 and published in Havana in 1861) came from “the most fruitful period of Gottschalk’s life”-the time that “he spent in the Antilles.” (Lowens, New Am. Grove, 1986, p. 265 and 264) These were the years 1857 through 1861: this would have been his “fourth Period” of composition. His earlier compositional periods were: “1844-51 in Paris, 1851-2 in Switzerland and Spain, 1853-6 in the USA.” (Ibid) Ojos Criollos (Creole Eyes) is described in “Gottschalk’s Illustrated Concert Book” [a souvenier program sold at his later concerts] as his fourth most successful piece. “It has invariably to be repeated every time it is on the programme. Its effect is irresistible, and it is undoubtedly the most brilliant piece of the kind that has ever been published. In this morceau, which is entirely original, the author has endeavored to convey an idea of the sinular rhythm and charming character of the music which exists among the Creoles of the Spanish Antilles. Chopin, it is well known, transferred the national trailts of Poland to his mazurkas and Polonoise, and Mr. Gottschalk has endeavored to reproduce, in works of an appropriate character, the characteristic traits of the dances of the West-Indies. Price $1.” Responds moi (Answer me) is describes as “A morceau like Ojos Criollos, characteristic of the Creoles of the Spanish Antilles, and equally fresh and delightful.” (Illustrated Concert Book pp. 9 and 10)

To his audience, Gottschalk “became romance personified. His love affairs were pleasant scandal over the teacups, the envy of the most fastidious debutantes. New York delighted in his mannerisms, and applauded wildly when he seated himself at the piano, lazily drawing off his glove and running his fingers over the keyboard in prelude, as if dusting it. He had a melancholy air a litle at odds with the trimly pointed mustache and an impeccably tailored suit, and he was apt to play with his head thrown back-and often with a cigar in his mouth-nonchalantly pretending to be alone withy himself, to the hysterical joy of the listeners he treated so highhandedly.” (Milinowski, pp. 28 and 29)

Eight months later on Mon. Feb. 29, 1864 Gottschalk announced “His Second and Last Farewell Concert Prior to his Positive Departure for Europe.” B. J. was again part of the program with the Duett di Bravura. Based on the programs in the Lang Scrapbooks, this concert seems to be the last Boston appearance that Gottschalk gave that included Lang. Dwight noted in his March 19 edition that “Gottschalk, aided by Mme. D”Angri, the contralto, has given two “farewell”” concerts, and has come back and clinched them with two more.” (Dwight, March 19, 1864, p. 207) In June 1864 Gottschalk wrote a letter to the Home Journal which was reprinted by the Boston Musical Times: “In the month of June I gave thirty-three concerts in twenty-six days. In fourteen months, during which I was off duty only fifty days, i gave more than four hundred, and traveled by railroad and steam nearly eighty thousand miles; while, in a few weeks, I shall have reached my thousandth concert in the United States.” (BMT, June 4, 1864, p. 82)

LouisMGottschalkLouis M. Gottschalk in Elson, p.282.

2 thoughts on “GOTTSCHALK”

  1. Awesome information. Would Notes of a Pianist have any reference to performing in Galena, IL…..famous place for lead mines, busiest Missisippi port in @1850s-70s……
    thanks…

    1. I do not own that book and the pages that I copied only had to do with his Boston concerts. My suggestion is to request that book from your local library through their “Inter Library Loan” program.
      All the best, Jim

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