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Episode 14: Chopin Comes to America

Piano Concerto in E minor, Op. 11: iii. Rondo

rc-gottschalk-200Chopin never made it to the New World. But the “Chopin of the Creoles” – American composer and pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk – came to him.

Gottschalk was born to a Jewish-English father and a Creole mother in New Orleans, America’s hotbed of classical music in the day. When Gottschalk was 13, his father packed the young piano prodigy off to Paris to study at the world-famous Conservatoire which at first REJECTED his application, his examiner declaring, “America is a country of steam engines.”

But Gottschalk chugged through and by 1845, he was making his Paris debut at the Salle Pleyel. On the program: Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E minor. In the audience: the composer himself.

Chopin met Gottschalk after the concert, and heaped praise on the young American, predicting a brilliant future for the teenaged pianist. Hector Berlioz was there too, and spoke of Gottschalk’s “exquisite grace, brilliant originality, and thundering energy.”

But young Gottschalk was watching, too. He observed Chopin’s and Franz Liszt’s success in playing their own compositions - which inspired him to leave his conservatory studies behind. The results? One of the most fascinating figures in musical history: playing for Presidents, criss-crossing the Western Hemisphere, and producing what his biographer calls “the most original classical music to be composed in 19th-century America.” Thanks in no small part to his first musical mentor in Paris… Fryderyk Chopin. - Jennifer Foster & Lisa Simeone

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Episode 14: Chopin Comes to America

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11: iii. Rondo

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