After his first sojourn on Cuba (1854/55), Gottschalk returned in 1857 and, having subsequently spent two years meandering round the Caribbean, lived there for two years from November 1859. Among his many friends, the most talented and cosmopolitan was the reclusive pianist Nicolás Ruiz Espadero (1832–1890). A substantial inheritance enabled the eccentric Cuban to survive in the family home for forty years with nothing but a piano, piles of manuscript paper and innumerable cats. Gottschalk and he became inseparable and realising that many of Gottschalk’s compositions had never been written down, Espadero took upon himself the role of amanuensis, resolving to commit them to paper and preserve them for posterity. It was a conscious re-enactment of the role Julian Fontana had performed for Chopin when he looked after the affairs of the great composer between 1836 and 1841, becoming his copyist, secretary and factotum. (In a further example of trans-continental pianistic cross-pollination, Fontana (1810–1869), the dedicatee of Chopin’s two Polonaises Op 40
, and himself a Polish pianist and composer, lived in Havana and New York from 1842 to 1852.) At Espadero’s suggestion, Gottschalk began a correspondence with Fontana in Paris and it was to Fontana that Gottschalk dedicated two new pieces, La Gitanella
, Op 35 and Fantôme De bonheur
, Op 36. ‘The Gypsy Dance’ is indeed ‘characteristic’ Gottschalk, its attractive G minor opening subject (in 68) framing a more languid section in G major.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2000