This was Gottschalk’s first attempt at an operatic fantasy (but see the note to Le songe d’une nuit d’été
on CD 4), still a popular vehicle for Parisian pianist-composers in the 1840s. Except for the omission of a repeat in the slow introduction and some repetitious passages towards the end, the score follows faithfully the outline of the overture to Méhul’s 1797 long-forgotten opera Le jeune Henri
(originally entitled La jeunesse d’Henri IV
). In the process, Gottschalk makes it a far more interesting and effective piece for the piano than it is in its original orchestral garb. It may be that he first conceived the fantasy as a work for two pianos (a fragment of this survives). The present version suggests this: there is much writing on three staves and, in the brilliant central section, the player is offered a much less taxing ‘facilité’ alternative in the right hand (an offer which Mr Martin does not take up). Here, the nineteen year old ‘L.M.Gottschalk de la Louisiane’ is able to hold his head high amongst his older peers: La chasse
is a superb example of the genre. He dedicated it ‘à son ami M. Marmontel’ who, in 1848, had been appointed head of the piano class at the Paris Conservatory and done much to introduce le jeune américain
to the highest musical circles of Paris.
In 1861 Gottschalk resurrected La chasse du jeune Henri, recasting it in the form of a new ‘descriptive symphony’ for one of his famous Monster Concerts in Havana where it was played by a 450-piece orchestra and no fewer than forty pianists.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2001