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Chant du soldat 'Grand caprice de concert', RO51 Op 23
? 1855; published in New York in 1857

'Gottschalk: Piano Music, Vol. 7' (CDA67478)
Gottschalk: Piano Music, Vol. 7
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'Gottschalk: The Complete Solo Piano Music' (CDS44451/8)
Gottschalk: The Complete Solo Piano Music
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Track 8 on CDA67478 [10'17] Archive Service; also available on CDS44451/8
Track 8 on CDS44451/8 CD7 [10'17] 8CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Chant du soldat 'Grand caprice de concert', RO51 Op 23
Since Gottschalk had returned to his native America in 1853 after a dozen formative years in Europe, his career had faltered. A series of concerts in New York’s Dodworth’s Hall promoted by his publisher, General Hall, revived his fortunes. The sensation of the first recital was—and we may well raise a cynical eyebrow today—Gottschalk’s The Last Hope (see CD 3). After that, there was no looking back and it followed him thereafter wherever he went.

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

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