Famous Creoles
Rosette Rochon
Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Louis Moreau Gottschalk



Louis Moreau Gottschalk

American composer and pianist, best known as a virtuoso performer of his own romantic piano ...

Born in New Orleans in 1829, Louis Moreau Gottschalk grew up in a neighbourhood where he was exposed to the Creole music with its African-Caribbean rhythms and the melodious folk songs that would later become a characteristic ingredient of much of his own music.

Some of his past biographers have taken the idea of his childhood home as the “geographical centre” of his musical inspiration quite literally. Vernon Loggins, for example, describes vividly how young Gottschalk would listen to the music that filled the streets of New Orleans in the 1830s at many of the ubiquitous Sunday afternoon public dances held by slaves across the city.

The general musical climate of New Orleans may have played its role during Gottschalk´s childhood, but is seems unlikely that little Louis-Moreau, at age two, picked up his extensive knowledge of Creole music by dancing on the gallery to the sounds of Sunday afternoon dances, or, as his biographer S. Frederick Starr puts it, “by hanging on the fence of Congo square as a spectator” (Congo Square with its many musical gatherings being, at the time, the major dissemination point for West Indian and Afro-American culture in New Orleans).


In 1842 he left the United States and sailed to Europe, realizing that a classical training would be required to achieve his musical goals. While such professionalism in a 13-year old would normally be the result of the parents´ ambitions, it is clear from Gottschalk´s letters, that he himself was the driving force.

In 1853, Gottschalk returned to the United States, possibly trying to escape an environment that he regarded as being dominated by egotism and vanity. In the 1860s, he had established himself again as a major figure in American musical life, partly as a result of tremendous hard work.

In September 1865, his career took a sharp turn when Gottschalk had to leave the United States after a scandal about his relationship with a student at Oakland Female Seminary. Gottschalk left the country, embarking on what would become his last (and perhaps most successful) tour, during the course of which he travelled to Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, and Rio de Janeiro (and many other less well-known locations).

His concerts were tremendously successful all across South America and sometimes took the form of “monster concerts” involving up to 650 performers.
Louis Moreau Gottschalk died Saturday, December 18, 1869, in Tijuca (Brazil), three weeks after collapsing during one his concerts, just when he had finished playing his sorrowful “Morte!!” and was about to begin moving on to the next piece.



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(c) 2001 by Axel Gelfert

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