For some time in 1859 (no one is quite sure exactly how long), Gottschalk lived at a remote mountainous spot called Matouba on the island of Guadeloupe. ‘Perched upon the edge of the crater, on the very top of the mountain, my cabin overlooked the whole country. The rock on which it was built hung over a precipice whose depths were concealed by cacti, convolvuluses, and bamboos,’ he recalled for the Atlantic Monthly in 1865. His only companions were ‘an antediluvian Negro, one-armed and stammering’ who cooked, and a mulatto named Firmin Moras who believed the Pope was his brother and the Emperor of the French his cousin, and whose mental recovery became Gottschalk’s personal cause. (He was successful and Moras became his paid valet and factotum, remaining with him until Gottschalk’s death.) ‘Every evening,’ wrote Gottschalk, ‘I moved my piano out upon the terrace, and there, in view of the most beautiful scenery in the world … I played for myself alone.’
It was here that he composed Réponds-moi, La Marche des Gibaros, Columbia (both on CD 1) and Polonia. Despite its promising title, Polonia is perhaps one of Gottschalk’s least distinguished pieces—a meretricious imitation of Chopin without the taste and inspiration.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2000