Gottschalk and his younger brother Edward, then seventeen years old, left New Orleans for Cuba in February 1854. Despite letters of introduction and decorations from Queen Isabella II, it was not an auspicious time for an American to visit the island for Spain and the United States were locked in conflict. Added to which the onset of Lent meant a dearth of concerts. Gottschalk had little money when he landed in Cuba; he was paying off his father’s debts and his mother, nearly destitute in Paris, was living by selling off her jewellery. Soon after his arrival, Gottschalk was advertising his Pleyel grand, so desperate was he for funds. Gradually, the Cubans took to him—he stayed on the island for exactly a year—and it was during the early part of this visit that he wrote this melancholy mazurka which, despite its title, is a ‘Souvenir’—indeed, a pastiche—‘de Chopin’. It is cast in the sombre key of C sharp minor.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2000