<< -- 2 -- John Bell Young BAMBOULA!
But Paris and its coterie of musical snobs ate their words, eventually hailing Gottschalk
as the equal to Liszt and Chopin, while the Conservatoire embraced his virtuosic Bamboula,
making it an audition requirement for admission. Celebrity followed. He toured Europe for
years with spectacular success, playing his own works which rang exceptionally exotic to
European ears. Like Chopin, he drew upon his own culture and experience, appropriating the folk
music and indigenous melodies of Creole, Spanish, and African American peoples. Upon his return
to the United States in 1862, Gottschalk put his gifts to work for the Union rather than
Confederate army, performing throughout America in aid of it. This he did in spite of terrible
conditions, often putting his own life in danger.
There is by and large a certain 'pastiche' quality to his music with its ripe re-invention
of West Indian folk tunes and the rhythms of Latin America thrown in for good measure. Even the
longer works are essentially episodic and picaresque, rather than symbolic or abstract, at least
in compositional categories. But superficiality has its charms, and its purpose, too; how odd
that an American would anticipate the enchanting music of Brazil's most celebrated twentieth
century composers, namely, Ernesto Nazareth and Heitor Villa Lobos.
Copyright © 13 April 2003
John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA