In January 1868, an epidemic of cholera broke out in Buenos Aires where Gottschalk had temporarily installed himself. He escaped to the small rural town of Las Conchas on the El Tigre river (about fifty miles north-west of the capital). The epidemic followed him and, living as he was in the most unhygienic and dangerous surroundings, suffering from boils on his arms and thighs as well as a tumour forming in one armpit, it comes as a surprise to find him producing any music, let alone something of such perfumed elegance. It is dedicated to ‘Mlle. Cara de la Montagnie Hall de New York’—a relation (?) or daughter (?) of Gottschalk’s publisher General Hall? The first section in F sharp minor, with a strikingly simple and sombre theme, gives way to a Chopinesque latter part in F sharp major. It was this Pensée poétique
(not the earlier L’Extase
of 1856, which has the subtitle ‘pensée poétique’) that was played on the organ at Gottschalk’s funeral mass in New York on 3 October 1870 (a ‘horribly macerated’ rendition according to one newspaper report).
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2000