In an article for the Atlantic Monthly
(1865), Gottschalk reminisced about his idyllic life at Matouba on the island of Guadaloupe some six years earlier. Part of this is reproduced in the notes for Polonia
(CD 4). Gottschalk went on to describe in vivid detail the view from his mountain eyrie as he played the piano to his heart’s content: ‘Imagine a gigantic amphitheater, such as an army of Titans might have carved out in the mountains; to the right and left virgin forests filled with wild and distant harmonies that are like the voice of silence; before me sixty miles of country … further on … the immensity of the ocean, whose line of deep blue forms the horizon. Behind me was a rock on which broke a torrent of melted snow that turned from its course, leaped with a desperate bound and engulfed itself in the depths of the precipice that gaped under my window. It was there that I composed Réponds-moi
, La Marche des Gibaros
, Pastorella e cavalliere
, and other unpublished works. I let my fingers run over the keyboard, wrapped up in the contemplation of these marvels …’.
The Romantic Idealist alone with Nature! How his readers must have lapped it up. In fact, although his description of the setting is accurate, Gottschalk was only an afternoon’s journey from the nearest town, Basse-Terre, some four miles distant. Jeunesse, the music tells us, was composed in the ‘Montagnes du Matouba, Guadaloupe, August 1859’. Its musical content fails to match the impressive and memorable surroundings in which it was conceived, an elegant Chopinesque mazurka from the Parisian salons of the 1840s.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2003