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Printemps d'amour 'Mazurka, caprice de concert', RO214 Op 40
1855; published in New york in 1860

'Gottschalk: Piano Music, Vol. 6' (CDA67349)
Gottschalk: Piano Music, Vol. 6
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'Gottschalk: The Complete Solo Piano Music' (CDS44451/8)
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Printemps d'amour 'Mazurka, caprice de concert', RO214 Op 40
Here, once more, Gottschalk returns to the roots of his European training: a pretty French title, a dance associated with the genius of Chopin, a sophisticated-sounding subtitle—strong selling points for the American market. The music, it must be said, rises little above routine Gottschalk save, perhaps, for its two unexpected syncopated episodes reminiscent of ragtime. It’s an agreeable drawing-room piece for the skilled amateur (though some of the scintillante and strepitoso passages would test the average parlour pianist). Unusually for Gottschalk, the score boasts the date and place of composition—August 1855, Trenton Falls, a scenic spa town near Utica, New York, and a popular port of call for tourists on their way to Niagara.

He had been in his home town of New Orleans since February (it was to prove his last visit there). On March 26 he had taken his first flight in a hot-air balloon, narrowly escaping injury when the wicker gondola came down on the tracks of the Pontchartrain Railroad just missing a passing locomotive. Gottschalk repeated the experiment six days later, this time taking a small keyboard instrument called a harmonicon aloft with him. He ‘improvised ecstatically’ as the Gulf of Mexico hoved into view. Once more the balloon’s descent went out of control over the railway line; once again the aviator managed by pure luck to avoid being hit by another train.

Who knows, perhaps this exhilarating experience was still fresh in his mind when he wrote the opening theme of Printemps d’amour.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2003

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