For background on Gottschalk’s ‘Cuban dances’ see the CD 3 of this series and the notes for O ma charmante, épargnez-moi!
. This, Ojos criollos
, Souvenir de la Havane
(both on CD 1), El Cocoyé
are but five examples of Gottschalk’s use of Cuban themes and the habanera rhythm, some time before Bizet and Saint-Saëns were attracted to them. In a sense, these and other pieces such as the final movement of Gottschalk’s Symphony No 1 ‘La Nuit des tropiques’ are successors to his four Louisiana pieces of 1849–51—Le Mancenillier
, Le Bananier
(both CD 1), La Savane
(CD 2) and Bamboula
(CD 3) which draw on Creole melodies and rhythms. If anything defines the quintessential Gottschalk, it is the Creole and Cuban works. Réponds-moi
might well be mistaken for something by Scott Joplin (there are even a couple of Gershwinesque moments, too), though the treacherous repeated demisemiquavers of the final pages could not.
The work was originally written for four hands (RO225, New York, 1864) and was composed during a rich period of creativity when Gottschalk was living in the mountain village of Matouba in Guadaloupe during the summer of 1859. It is dedicated to the widow of the piano manufacturer Jonas Chickering (1798–1853) who had helped to save the young artist’s career during a rocky patch in 1853. In gratitude, Gottschalk switched from Pleyel and Érard (his preferred Parisian instruments) to Chickering, remaining the firm’s loyal champion for the remainder of his career.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2001