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<<  -- 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.

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Copyright © 13 April 2003 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA


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