It was not written, as might be thought, to herald a trip to Britain—Gottschalk never made it across the Channel—but for one of a series of concerts in Geneva in the autumn of 1850. The tune, at that time, served for the Swiss national anthem as it did for at least seven of the states of Germany and several Scandinavian countries.
The music bears witness to the fact that the Swiss premiere was not the same as the final printed version: ‘Paris 1852–Havana 1860’ stands at the top of the score. In the United States, the tune had acquired many sets of words (‘God save America’, ‘God save George Washington’ and others) and is known today as ‘America’. The present American words, ‘My country, ’tis of thee’ date from 1831. All in all, Gottschalk’s morceau de concert proved a useful travelling companion. The final American version was dedicated to the great Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein. Did the two ever meet? It seems unlikely. Rubinstein did not visit America until 1872, by which time Gottschalk had been dead for three years.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2004
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