Between Old Worlds and New: Keyboard Encounters, c. 1700–1900
Event details will continue to post below as they are confirmed, please register for the conference, consider membership or sign up for our email list to receive news in the meantime. Thank You!
Thursday, March 9, 2023
11:15am-12:45pm: SESSION I: Uniquely American
Session Chair, TBD
Anthony Philip Heinrich: An Immigrant Composer’s Musical Response to Injustice
The quality of Anthony Philip Heinrich’s (1781-1861) unique musical oeuvre remains
unresolved, never having reached clear critical consensus. Nonetheless, Heinrich––who
immigrated to the USA in 1810 from Bohemia, having lost his entire fortune in the economic
crash following the Napoleonic Wars––exuberantly embraced––personally and musically––the social, political and financial advantages of life in his new country. On the other hand,
Heinrich was also a keen observer of the blatant injustices visited upon Native Americans and
enslaved African Americans, and became deeply attracted to the unique music and the function
music held in these marginalised communities. As a result, an important segment of his original
works addresses both this attraction and expresses in musical terms his concern regarding the
injustice visited upon these peoples.
Heinrich’s life story followed a unique trajectory when he decided at age 36 to take up his long-
time musical avocation to become a professional composer, violinist and conductor. Once in the United States, he traveled by foot from Boston to Pittsburgh, settling for a period in a log cabin
in Kentucky. A number of cross-Atlantic trips ensued, but Heinrich remained principally in the
USA, eventually basing himself in Boston and, ultimately, New York City. He composed,
mounted many concerts, taught, wrote and published prolifically.
The presentation will feature performed excerpts from three of his solo piano divertimentos in
which Heinrich expresses his:
1. Embrace of the American Experience - Hope of Reunion Yankee Doodle
2. Fascination with African American music - The Negro’s Banjo Quickstep
3. Reverence for Native American ritual ceremony - Indian Carnival The Cry of the Souls
"In the Country" with the American Unichord
The United States of the nineteenth century was widely involved in the emulation and assimilation of European traditions in art, architecture, music, literature etc., absorbing the best of the Old World to produce a uniquely American product.
John Knowles Paine (1839-1906) received his early musical training in Maine from a German immigrant and later studied in Germany before returning to the United States to become America’s first music professor at Harvard and one of the most influential figures in American music of the nineteenth century. His Ten Sketches for the Piano
, “In the Country,” Op.26 (1876) represent an American homage to the European piano miniature wildly popular at the time. In spirit reminiscent of Schumann, they nonetheless speak with a uniquely American voice and are delightful pieces unjustly neglected by pianists today.
Founded by British immigrants, R. & W. Nunns (later Nunns & Clark) piano manufacturers (1823-67) introduced to the American public a new square piano in 1829. Inspired by a Pleyel innovation, these new American “Unichords” were specifically marketed as being suitable for “remote parts of the country, where the difficulty of having a piano kept in tune is a subject of such eternal complaint...” [from a letter to the NY Evening Post, 1829].
It seems apt to explore the sound of Paine’s rustic miniatures “In the Country” on a piano specifically intended for the countryside. In my presentation, I will talk briefly about Paine, his Ten Sketche
s, the Second New England School, and the Nunns & Clark Unichord. This brief talk will be followed by a complete performance of Paine’s “In the Country” on the R .& W. Nunns 1830 square piano or the Nunns & Clark 1834 square piano (to be determined on site).
Ten Sketches for the Piano
, “In the Country," Op. 26
2. "Wayside Flowers"
3. "Under the Lindens"
4. "The Shepherd’s Lament"
5. "Village Dance"
6. "Rainy Day"
7. "The Mill"
10. "Welcome Home"
Thalberg in America
During the two concert seasons spanning 1856-58, Sigismond Thalberg gave over 300 public performances in North America. Thalberg was already well known in America by reputation and through the publication of his compositions (especially his operatic transcriptions), which had enjoyed great commercial success in the States. Thalberg had seven Érard pianos shipped to the New World for his tour, making the Sigal Music Museum’s 1863 Érard an obvious vehicle for revisiting Thalberg’s adventures in America.
After some brief introductory remarks, I will perform three pieces that Thalberg played during his North American tour. The Barcarolle in A minor, Op. 60 is the only entirely original work of the three, presenting Thalberg’s own compositional voice. The transcription of Beethoven’s song “Adelaïde” was published in 1853 as part of Thalberg’s “L’art du chant appliqué au piano,” a large collection of vocal transcriptions that was already widely known in the United States before Thalberg’s arrival. The final work of this short program is one that Thalberg wrote during the tour. Having discovered that Henry Bishop’s air, “Home, Sweet Home!,” was immensely popular in the United States, he cloaked the well-loved tune in several characteristically Thalbergian piano textures. The piece was a resounding success with American audiences––contemporary writers recorded the strong emotional reactions of many listeners.
Sigismond Thalberg - Barcarolle, Op. 60
Ludwig van Beethoven/Thalberg - “Adelaïde,” Op. 70/3
Henry Bishop/Thalberg - “Home, Sweet Home!,” Op. 72
3:30-5:00pm: SESSION II: The Twentieth-Century Early Music Revival
Session Chair, TBD
Sylvia Marlowe: Visionary for an Old Instrument in Modern Times
The harpsichord in the twentieth century is most generally viewed as a vehicle for the performance of (primarily) European keyboard music written in the Baroque and early Classical periods. However, since the beginnings of its revival at the end of the nineteenth century, a small but determined number of pioneering composers and performers have encouraged the use of the harpsichord in modern music. Harpsichordist Sylvia Marlowe (1908-81) was such a visionary pioneer––as an American, as a woman, and most importantly as a life-long advocate for the harpsichord in the modern world. Over the course of her career, Marlowe commissioned more than thirty works for the harpsichord, both solo and chamber music, from both European and American composers. She played “hot harpsichord” in night clubs, promoted the instrument on thousands of live radio shows, broke new ground with her many recordings, and traveled the world with harpsichord in tow, always dividing her programming between old and new music. Her vision for the modern relevance of the harpsichord was unprecedented, and the impact she had on its new repertoire was invaluable.
As both a performer and historian, I will speak about Marlowe at the beginning of the presentation, and finish with a performance of one of her most successful solo commissions, Sonata All’Antica, 1946 (mvt. I: Allegro alla giga) by Vittorio Rieti.
Joyce Wei-Jo Chen
The Creation of a Musical Instrument Genre: Democratizing Sound and Aesthetics with DIY Harpsichord Kits in Postwar America
In 1955, the first prototype of what became known as the "Z Box" harpsichord was born in the Zuckermann harpsichord factory in New York (now Connecticut). Because these user- and budget-friendly harpsichord kits could be assembled in a garage or basement with ordinary household tools, they were hugely popular and blossomed through the 1980s. Fast forward to the twenty-first century, kit instruments are now overlooked by organologists and instrument makers because of its non-elite status. Nevertheless, my encounters with numerous kit instruments reveal their significance in providing access to the rarefied world of early music for the middle class by offering them an opportunity to produce their own musical instruments.
This paper studies the multi-faced roles of harpsichord kits in the postwar period in America. Under actor-network theory, harpsichord kits can be regarded as an actor that provides an immersive, multi-sensory experience from woodworking, painting, to music making. Because of their versatile nature, harpsichord kits were a major component in advertising the instrument and musical repertoire of the past to a wider audience. In addition, I contend that harpsichord kits should be distinguished as a unique genre of musical instruments, which encompass potential from being a memorial item to a pedagogical apparatus for carpentry and instrument making. I will first lay out the historical background of harpsichord making in postwar America. Second, I will demonstrate how postwar aesthetic ideals and materials were also reflected in musical instruments, using the Z-box as an example for its plywood construction, natural wood finish, and a clean line design. Lastly, I will discuss the democratizing power of harpsichord kits from the perspectives of race and gender by incorporating my own fieldwork experience of working at the Zuckermann Harpsichord Factory.
Bayard Rustin and his "Liegende Harfe" Clavier
Known primarily for his contributions to the Civil Rights movement, Bayard Rustin
exemplifies the Renaissance man of the twentieth century. A writer, thinker, pacifist, and
athlete, Rustin was also a gifted musician whose resume includes college scholarships
and a professional stint as a singer with "Josh White and the Carolians." In the midst of
arrests for civil disobedience (violating "Jim Crow" laws and refusing enlistment) and
trips to Africa in support of anti-apartheid movements, he recorded and released an
album of spirituals and Elizabethan songs, the latter accompanied on harpsichord. This
LP is not the only evidence of Rustin’s interest in early music, as he owned at least four
instruments built in the 1700s, including a 1790s liegende harfe klavier (lying-harp piano).
The latter was purchased from Rustin by Marlowe Sigal in 1972, and is currently part of
the Sigal Music Museum collection.
While no recordings exist of Rustin and his harp-piano, it is possible to infer that he
appreciated its potential as a gently expressive, portable instrument suitable for
providing accompaniment given that the other antique instruments in his possession
(lutes and guitars) fit this profile. With a voice both delicate and resonant, the lying-harp
piano sounds to best advantage in music with restrained technical demands and simple
beauty. Therefore, a solo program including arrangements of the same recorded songs
and spirituals is presented as a fitting tribute to an under-represented twentieth-century
Program to be selected from the following songs:
17th Century Songs
"If Musick Be The Food Of Love"
"Have You Seen But A White Lily Grow? Ah! The Sighs That Come Fro’ My Heart"
"Flow My Tears"
"Cara E Dolce"
"The Lass With The Delicate Air"
"Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen"
"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
"There Is Balm In Gilead"
Friday, March 10, 2023
9:30-10:45am: SESSION III
European Music in Africa and Australia
Session Chair, TBD
Traces of Early Keyboards in Sixteenth-Century Ethiopia
Keyboards were often employed as musical commodities and diplomatic tools in early modern European overseas exploration and visits to Africa and the East. Drawing on fifteenth-
and sixteenth-century travel narratives, Portuguese dignitaries’ letters, and indigenous Ethiopian
sources, this paper explores the dissemination, musical functions and cultural significance of
the earliest documented Western keyboards in the Christian kingdom of sixteenth-century
Ethiopia. It focuses on one of the earliest recorded encounters between Ethiopia and Latin
Europe, the 1520 contact between a Portuguese embassy and the court of Lebnä Dengel, to
provide new insights into how music served as a construct for identity, agency and power by
Europeans and Ethiopians, with details on keyboards used for diplomacy and gift-giving, the
local faranji (foreigners) community, and the first recorded European instruments to be
brought to Ethiopia. These Portuguese keyboards are arguably the earliest documented
Western keyboards to have been imported into the Ethiopian highlands. An earlier Italian
organ from 1481/82 constructed locally has wider implications regarding the dissemination
of keyboards in Ethiopia and the presence of foreign musicians on the highlands. The
musical sources support prevalent ideas about early modern African agency and add to
scholarly views that reject Ethiopia’s isolation paradigm imbued with colonial ideology as a
remote, conservative African kingdom isolated from the world since antiquity, rather
revealing the Solomonic ruler’s keen interest in European music and craftsmanship from the
Latin West in a strategy of dynastic self-representation. This Ethio-European encounter
offers tantalizing views on the spread of keyboard instruments across three continents, and
how they were used as colonial and political tools by European powers, thus giving broader
insight into the role of keyboards in constructing cultural identity and the collisions of
political, social and cultural hierarchies outside of Europe in an entangled global early
American Organ Building of the Gilded Age and Its Antipodean Connections
When in 1883 Hilborne Roosevelt completed the then-largest organ in the world at the
Cathedral of the Incarnation on Long Island, organ builders as far away as Melbourne knew
of his accomplishment. Evidence shows, moreover, that in Britain’s Australian colonies,
American organ builders could be seen as an inspiration for being more progressive and
decidedly less tied to the historic legacies of traditional organ building than their prevalent
British or British-influenced counterparts. Still, hardly any American instruments ever found
their way to Australia.
Driven by a persistent reliance on national paradigms in extant organ-historical scholarship
and a distinct knowledge gap resulting from it, this paper will use the explanatory concepts of
the British World and “Angloworld,” developed by John Pocock and James Belich, to explore
how American and Australian organ building of the Gilded Age were embedded in one and
the same global network that allowed for an ever-accelerating movement of goods, ideas and
people. More specifically, this paper will shed light on the actual channels that connected the
pipe organ communities of these two young and fast-growing societies, both of them relying
on the same cultural roots and language, and both sharing the experience of the frontier in
their respective national narratives. Furthermore, by using the monumental instrument that
brought the title of "largest organ in the world" from the US to Australia in 1890 as a case
study (only to see it return to the US in 1904), this paper will attempt to explain why trans-
continental connectedness did not prevent trailblazing proposals by three leading American firms from being instantly dismissed.
11:00am-12:15pm: Keynote Lecture I
Pianos in the Tropics
This talk retraces the peregrinations of several pianos and pianists from metropolitan centers to colonial peripheries and back again in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. We follow a Longman & Broderip grand onto the Calcutta veranda of the Anglo-Indian amateur Margaret Fowke, who played regularly with friends in the humid evenings during the 1780s; we encounter the Pleyel of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who reportedly improvised nightly in the 1850s overlooking the crater of Mount Matouba in Guadaloupe; and we meet the Haitian pianist Ludovic Lamothe, newly arrived in France from Port-au-Prince in 1910, playing Chopin on the Érards in Louis Diémer’s studio at the Paris Conservatoire. Mapping the routes of these pianos, spreading across a newly imagined globe, we explore their changing meanings in contemporary colonial and postcolonial literature, from Jane Austen and Frances Burney to E. M. Forster and Joan Lindsay: as part of the furniture of expatriate identity, as a technological vehicle of sonic civilization, as a machine to domesticate or mediate turbulent passions or an alienating nature.
On the one hand, as pianos journeyed across the colonized world, they made possible a musical version of what the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk has called the “poetics of the ship’s hold”––a poetics of self-contained European interiors that could travel vast distances unperforated, establishing through music the boundaries of a mobile yet unchanging metropolitan identity. On the other hand, the piano continued to perform a function that, as the musicologist Roger Moseley has explored, could be thought native to the Romantic aesthetics of the piano: mediating between the extractable, exportable knowledge represented by its uniform digital interface and the intimation of a wild analogue Nature beyond it. In the tropics, European colonists were to conceive of Nature as ever more threatening and inscrutable––Nature in dire need of subjugation. The piano’s historical role as a technological apparatus for mastering an elusive Nature was thus newly freighted with a colonial politics.
This talk is, then, a musical counterpoint to Aldous Huxley’s classic 1929 essay “Wordsworth in the Tropics.” Here, the author scathingly observed that Romantic ideas of nature and the divine were plausible only amid the managed and manicured pseudo-wildernesses of England. The far-flung journeys of the piano between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries might allow us to tell a still more complex story, however. One of the most popular piano transcriptions of the mid-nineteenth century was the Andante from Gottschalk’s orchestral work “La nuits des tropiques,” premiered in Havana in 1858. I will suggest that we take Gottschalk as representative of “tropical Romanticism”––an aesthetic of pianistic naturalism that complicates European conceptions of center and margin, civilized metropolis and savage colony.
3:00-4:15pm: SESSION IV
European Music in Latin America
Session Chair, TBD
Patricia García Gil
Cross-Compilations: Iberian and Latin American Music in the Late Eighteenth Century
The cultural transfer between Iberia and Latin America occurred in a far less neutral context than an "encounter," which is perhaps the reason why mostly Christian religious music of the colonial period has been preserved and studied. However, in the late years of the eighteenth century, when both continents were foreseeing the end of an old regime, music education and domestic music making started to spread in varied social spheres, along with enthusiasm for Italian music and the new fortepiano.
From 1752 to 1757, thirteen volumes of Scarlatti sonatas were copied out for the use of his student, the Portuguese-Spanish Queen Maria Barbara, who probably performed them on her Florentine fortepianos. Her uncle, Infante Antonio of Portugal, received a set of sonatas specifically conceived for the fortepiano, composed by Giustini, and commissioned by bishop Joao de Seixas of Brazil. Scarlatti’s and his student Soler’s works, which incorporated the Moorish, Jewish, Gypsy, folksong, dance, and guitar sounds of Spain, were present in libraries and music compilations throughout America, along with works of other Iberian and Latin American composers.
Some of the extant compilations are the “Libro Sesto de Maria Antonia Palacios,” probably a Chilean black woman slave, and “Quaderno Mayner for the use of Sra. Maria Guadalupe Mayner from Mexico,” of unknown origin. Both manuscripts contain compositions “for harpsichord or fortepiano” by Haydn, Spanish, and Latin American composers.
Customs archives show the entrance of fortepianos into South America as early as 1769. From 1780, printed music from Iberian and Latin American composers circulated in both continents.
For the use of the House of Braganza
Antonio Soler (1729-83) - Sonata R. 78 in F Sharp
Allegro ma non tanto
From Libro Sesto de María Antonia Palacios
Vicente Joachin Castillon (?-?) - Seis Sonatas orgánicas para el piano forte o clave con una parte optativa para el violín
(1781) publicadas en Madrid - n.1 in B minor
From Quaderno de lecciones i varias piezas para clabe 8 forte piano para el uso de Da. Maria Guadalupe Mayner
Manuel Aldana (1730-1810) - (Minuet de varia
) Minuetto con variaciones
Joaquin Montero (1740-1815) - 6 Sonatas para clave y fuerte piano
Schmid (1694-1772), Depp (1655-1733), and Zipoli (1688-1726): Baroque Missionaries of Keyboard Repertoire in South America
Though not yet thoroughly researched, the history of keyboard instruments in South America during
colonial times has revealed, in the past thirty years, the presence of several clavichords, organs, and
harpsichords, not only brought by the colonizers from Europe, but also built "in situ" by native musicians
and craftsmen. The missionary work, both in religious and musical realms, of Jesuit priests such as Schmid
(Switzerland), Sepp (Tyrol), and Zipoli (Tuscany) fostered a legacy of instruments and repertoire that attests to
a rich keyboard culture in the colonial territories of Bolivia, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil.
Organs and harpsichords were used in the expected liturgical and ceremonial contexts, while clavichords
served more pedagogical functions. Ample documentation comments on the power of music and music
pedagogy to entice the natives to the new religion. The natives’ attraction to music also explains the
eighteenth-century presence of cylinder-automatic organs used as attractions in general stores of the
colonies. The natives learned not only to play, but also to build instruments under the guidance by Sepp and
This lecture recounts the influence of these priests in the Jesuit Reductions, large farm-like
compounds where natives were encultured into European ways. Music manuscripts found in these
reductions, in addition to instruments, some of them in fair condition for their age (such as the harpsichords
and clavichords in the convents of Sucre y Potosi), register an early keyboard culture in the American
Southern Hemisphere that deserves deeper investigation and a wider dissemination. This lecture will include
the performance of some pieces from the keyboard manuscript found in the San Rafael Mission of Bolivia
(Chiquito territory), a compendium estimated to have been compiled in 1746 by Martin Schmid, who
included several anonymous (or his) pieces in addition to some pieces by Zipoli not found in his European
Selections from the Manuscript “Sones mo organo” of 1746 (San Rafael Chiquito Mission, Bolivia):
D. Zipoli - Tocada
M. Schmid (?) - Fuga
M. Schmid (?) - Endechas
D. Zipoli - Retirada del Emperador de los Dominicos de España
Saturday, March 11, 2023
9:30-10:45am: SESSION V: Domestic Music in the United States
Session Chair, TBD
The Washington Harpsichord and its Repertoire:
The Music Books of Eleanor Parke Custis
My 2019 Research Fellowship at George Washington’s Mount Vernon afforded me the
opportunity to arrive on the very day the much-anticipated reproduction of Washington’s
Longman & Broderip harpsichord was delivered by its maker, John Watson. It enabled
exploration of that instrument’s rich possibilities, in tandem with the archives at the Fred W.
Smith Library for the Study of George Washington. In particular, among the beautifully
preserved personal music books owned by the Washington family are four volumes containing
music that would have been played on the original harpsichord, a gift from Washington to his
granddaughter, Nelly Custis, in 1793. I will give a lecture-recital that explores this
repertoire, which illuminates a genre of domestic, not concert, pieces intended to entertain on
Despite Washington’s advocacy of American manufacturing, much of Nelly’s sheet
music, like her harpsichord, was imported from abroad. The publishers include Longman &
Broderip, Bland, and Cooper (London); John Lee (Dublin); Corri & Sutherland (Edinburgh);
Artaria (Vienna); Hummel (Berlin and Amsterdam); and Imbault (Paris); in addition to Moller
and John Rice (Philadelphia) and more. The list of composers represented is equally
international, including Clementi, Corri, Edelman, Felton, Giordani, Just, Kozeluch, Martini,
Nicolai, Pleyel, Pugnani, Rush, Smith, Sterkel, and Vanhal. Also represented is Alexander
Reinagle, who after immigrating from England became prominent as a composer, performer, and, concert organizer in Philadelphia and New York, where he was Nelly’s first keyboard teacher in
It is intriguing to track title-page instrument designations of “harpsichord or pianoforte,”
in conjunction with the acquisition chronology of the Washington family’s keyboards: first
spinet, followed by pianoforte, and with the elaborate harpsichord acquired in 1793 remaining
dominant quite a bit later than is generally assumed. I will perform these selections from Nelly
Custis’s keyboard books:
Tommaso Giordani (1730-1806) - Overture to the Jubilee with Medley
Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel (1750-1817) - Romance, Op. 24 no. 3
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) - Overture from “Water Piece” Suite in D Major (HWV 341)
Bonny H. Miller
From Brilliant to Bravura Style in the Piano Works of Augusta Browne
Pianism in works by American composer Augusta Browne (ca. 1820–82) developed hand in hand with the evolution of piano construction and the corresponding rise of keyboard virtuosity during the nineteenth century. This lecture-recital draws on piano solos composed from the 1830s to the 1870s and illustrates Browne’s progression as a pianist and composer from the brilliant style exemplified by virtuosi like Friedrich Kalkbrenner and Henri Herz (e.g., variations and operatic fantasies) to the bravura virtuosity and orchestral conception of Franz Liszt (rhapsodies and poetic character pieces).
The presentation follows Browne’s keyboard styles using performances of excerpts from:
- Brilliant introduction and variations on the favorite air, Still so gently o’er me stealing, No. 23 (ca. 1839; operatic fantasy based on themes from Bellini’s La Sonnambula and Auber’s Fra Diavolo) [Sigal instrument: Broadwood, 1845]
- Aurora, Romance (on original Melodies), Op. 200 (ca. 1870; manuscript copy dedicated to Liszt) [Sigal instrument: Broadwood 1845 or Erard 1863]
- Other examples will be illustrated with Power Point audiovisual slides (variations; dances; tableau musical)
This lecture-recital will draw on two pianos, one English (ca. 1820–30), and a later American instrument (ca. 1850–60), such as a Chickering or Steinway. These instruments reflect the ones mentioned by the composer. Her father imported English instruments during the 1820s, and she fondly recalled the “stout family Broadwood.” By 1850, two of Browne’s brothers worked in piano manufacture in Boston, following apprenticeships with Chickering. A mid-nineteenth-century grand piano would embody the instrument Browne knew in her mature years, when her keyboard style had grown in range and power. The music of Augusta Browne offers a fresh lens to examine the expansion of Romantic-era pianos and pianism.
11:00am-12:00pm: Keynote Lecture II
Vignettes from the Beginnings of American Keyboard Culture
It has been nearly five centuries since the first organs appeared in Mexico City, and nearly four centuries since a pair of virginals was first recorded in the Virginia colony of British North America. A lot has happened in so many generations of cultural exchange. This presentation considers selected vignettes from American keyboard history and its reciprocal ties with Europe, paying particular attention to the seminal and rapidly evolving events of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Some seeds that arrived in the new world were remarkable for their origins so close to the beginnings of European piano history, whether or not they took root in the new world. The earliest American makers of keyboard instruments were exceptional for what they accomplished so far away from their European counterparts.
Early American relationships with France and immigration from Germany in particular added to ever strong English ties, bringing clavichords and harpsichords across the Atlantic in quantity. From the perspective of the more general sourcing of keyboard instruments for America, however, the actual “War of Independence” did not come until the War of 1812. It was the associated trade embargos that gave American makers—finally ready with the required craft and technology—to fill the nation’s own needs. What followed was a prodigious growth of the piano industry that turned America into a world leader in the production of pianos by the beginning of the twentieth century. That brings the story to the beginnings of the early keyboard revival as the rivers of transatlantic influence flowed equally in both directions.
9:30-10:45am: SESSION VI: The Cosmopolitan Virtuoso in America
Session Chair, TBD
Duo Amadeae (Esther and Sun-A Park)
Piano Duo Culture on the American Continent:
Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s Music for Four Hands
Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-69) was one of the most prominent American virtuoso
pianists and composers of his time, although his significance has been minimized in canonical
narratives of Western music history. The overwhelming majority of Gottschalk’s works are solo
keyboard works; these works convey a varied array of styles inspired from his childhood in
Louisiana, trips to Central and South Americas, and virtuosic techniques which established him
as the best pianist in the American continent.
Though comparatively neglected in the current piano literature, Gottschalk’s duo piano works
reflect an important shift in nineteenth-century piano works that, while keeping within the framework of romantic pianism, is also the first to explore the musical styles and legacies of the New World
(Creole music, Cuban rhythm, and even as a precursor of ragtime music). Gottschalk’s works for
four hands (one piano) include both characteristics of old and new pianism by employing the
most difficult types of techniques and originalities, expanding the trajectory of virtuosic
keyboard playing in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Americas.
L. Gottschalk - Ses Yeux
L. Gottschalk - La Gallina
L. Gottschalk - Reponds moi
L. Gottschalk - Radieuse
Gottschalk, Carreño, MacDowell: A Cosmopolitan Nexus
At first glance, the cosmopolitan careers of three musicians of the Americas—Louis
Moreau Gottschalk (1829–69), Teresa Carreño (1853-1917), and Edward MacDowell (1860-
1908)—share broad similarities. They evinced musical talent at early ages. Like many of their
New-World contemporaries, they studied with local keyboardists, but soon pursued advanced
training in Europe. They performed and published their own compositions in transatlantic
venues. And their works experienced neglect after their deaths.
This paper more deeply investigates a chain of close mentorships that shaped their
vocations and their compositions. Gottschalk, impressed with the eight-year-old Carreño’s
pianism and improvising, contacted Havana’s critics before she toured Cuba. In return, Carreño
imitated her mentor’s salon style in her Gottschalk Waltz
. Although he never performed this
work, he championed several of her other scores and performed four-hands music with her on his
recitals. Carreño in turn cajoled the teenage MacDowell to practice and provided him with a
model of a young composer-pianist who performed her works internationally and published them
with prestigious European firms. MacDowell sought her approval for the first scores that he
planned to publish and dedicated to her one of his most enduring scores, his Second Piano
Concerto. She ultimately performed it and other MacDowell pieces on four continents, although
he was annoyed that she persisted in programming his Etude de Concert
, a brilliant morceau that
he came to revile.
A virtually unknown piece of evidence suggests that their chain of mentorships was no
coincidence. The previously uninvestigated sheet music collection that Eddie and his brother
Walter owned, now preserved at the New York Public Library, includes Gottschalk’s four-hand
transcription of Rossini’s Overture to Guillaume Tell
. Carreño and Gottschalk performed the
tour-de-force arrangement together in concert, suggesting that Carreño may have also played it
with her young protégé, or that he was curious enough about it to purchase a copy himself.
Moreover, Carreño recalled that she motivated Eddie to practice more diligently by sightreading
four-hands music with him. Eddie consequently demonstrated proficient sightreading when he
entered the Paris Conservatoire. Rossini’s overture accordingly identifies a nexus among three of
the nineteenth century’s preeminent composer-pianists.