The Dodworth’s Hall concerts ran from 20 December 1855 to 7 June 1856. Gottschalk recorded in Notes of a Pianist that he introduced Le chant du soldat at the first of these. S Frederick Starr states that it was first heard as part of the programme for the fifth recital, which included the appearance of assisting pianist Karl Wels and ‘the prodigiously talented Welsh harpist Aptomas’. The theme and variations contain the full Gottschalk arsenal—charm, melodic appeal, delicate filigree runs, bravura octaves, Chopinesque configurations, nostalgic and forthright by turns—with his habitual élégante, scintellante and martellato strepitoso requests, together with one that this writer has never previously encountered: allontandosi, which appears eight bars before the coda.
The piece is dedicated ‘à mon ami George Henriques Esq. de New York’, a lawyer who had known the Gottschalk family in New Orleans twenty years earlier. When Gottschalk returned from New Orleans early in 1855, it was Henriques and his family who opened up their West 14th Street home to the pianist and treated him like a son.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2004