El Cocoyé is a virtual vade mecum of Gottschalk’s unique compositional armoury, a synthesis of a popular local tune (a favourite device), the European classical discipline and Afro-Cuban rhythms. The writing is Lisztian in its virtuosity with Gottschalk’s customary passages of flashy rhetoric, rapid repeated notes, idiosyncratic harmonies and much time spent at the top of the keyboard. The melody of El Cocoyé had its origins in the Afro-Cuban carnivals of Santiago de Cuba in the early years of the nineteenth century. By the 1850s it was a popular dance number and several composers had arranged it for piano, among them Desvernine. Doubtless this was how Gottschalk was introduced to the tune. The work, cast in the key of F sharp major with a central section in E flat minor, is dedicated to a certain Monsieur Alphonse Quesada.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2001
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