Richard Hoffman remembered Gottschalk and Thalberg playing duets on two pianos at a concert in New York in the 1850s: ‘One in particular, on themes from Trovatore
, composed by both of them, and which I have never seen in print, was wonderfully effective and created the most tremendous furore and excitement. A remarkable double shake which Thalberg played in the middle of the piano while Gottschalk was flying all over the keyboard in the “Anvil Chorus”, produced the most prodigious volume of tone ever heard from the piano.’ Alas, no manuscript survives of this marvel but here, perhaps, is the next best thing. It contains no ‘Anvil Chorus’ but, unlike Liszt’s ‘Miserere paraphrase’ of a few years earlier, uses Leonora’s expressive ‘D’amor sull’ ali rosee’ as an introduction. (Her Act 4 aria immediately precedes it in the opera, after all.) Liszt’s version, though, conveys the underlying drama of the scene far more cogently than Gottschalk (albeit with some fairly de trop gestures). Gottschalk’s is purely a bravura display which happens to have tunes by Verdi. It is highly effective, with an ingenious use (as in the Liszt) of Thalberg’s device of alternating the playing of the melody between the two thumbs. This leaves Gottschalk free to accompany the theme with semiquaver octave sextuplets in the treble’s zenithal region while the left hand gets on with the harmonization and rhythmic pulse.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 1994