Gottschalk: Piano music for two & four hands

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COMPOSERS: Gottschalk
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Piano music for two & four hands
PERFORMER: Alan Marks, Nerine Barrett (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 7045-46 Reissue (1984, 1991)
Gottschalk was one of those curious figures who demonstrate that it’s possible to be an important composer without being remotely a great one. Born in Louisiana in 1829, most of his music was really high-class tripe. His importance lies in the fact that he was the first composer to make use of the Afro-American and Creole music which he heard in the cities and plantations of the Deep South, thereby paving the way for jazz. He was also the first to mine the richly colourful and evocative features of Spanish folk music. The Nimbus offering here presents his best and his worst, well, though not outstandingly, played, but the whole thing is effectively sabotaged by the appallingly inappropriate, bathtub acoustic, redolent of a huge, empty gymnasium (a sad fate for a man who once staged a performance of his Creole Eyes by 40 pianists!). When will all record companies see the folly of cultivating an unwavering ‘house style’?

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As the ever-capable and reliable Philip Martin soldiers on in his archivally welcome but artistically unengrossing survey of Gottschalk’s entire piano works, the true goodies are getting progressively scarcer. But when the series is complete, there’ll be a really good compilation disc in prospect. Jeremy Siepmann