This, one of Gottschalk’s last works, is also one of the cruellist in pianistic terms, surely the nec plus ultra of repeated-note studies. The quaver notes played by alternate hands ‘must be struck perfectly equally’, Gottschalk requests, later helpfully suggesting (when the heat is really turned on and alternate hands play groups of two repeated semiquavers) ‘l’effet du dessin de doubles percussions des deux mains alternées, réside moins dans la rapidité que dans l’égalité des notes répétées’ (‘The effect produced by the pairs of double-notes played by the two hands alternately lies not so much in the speed as in the evenness of the repeated notes’). The idea for the piece came from a work of the same title by the Belgian violinist Charles-Auguste de Bériot (1802–1870) and Gottschalk first performed it in Buenos Aires in March 1868. Audiences thrilled to Tremolo
, as much a novelty for the eyes as the ears, and the composer included it in most of his concerts thereafter. S Frederick Starr confirms that this was the last music Gottschalk played and not, as legend has it, his lament Morte!!
. In Rio de Janeiro’s Theatro Lyrico Fluminense on 25 November 1869, he struggled through to the end of Morte!!
, already in great pain. He then commenced the first few bars of Tremolo
before collapsing at the keyboard. Three weeks of agony later, he died of a ruptured appendix aged forty.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2001