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Gottschalk And Cuba / Antonio Iturrioz

Release Date: 09/21/2018
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30102
Composer:  Louis Moreau Gottschalk ,  Manuel Saumell ,  Nicolas Ruiz Espadero ,  Ignacio Cervantes  ...  Performer:  Antonio Iturrioz

When most people think of Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), Creole pianist and composer, they think of pieces such as The Banjo, Bamboula, The Dying Poet, and other familiar pieces. But he was so much more than that. He was America’s first important pianist-composer. He was the precursor to ragtime and early jazz and anticipated the works of Granados and Albéniz. He traveled the world and spent several years of his short, colorful and tragic life in the Caribbean where he fell in love with Cuba and its music.

This CD is a journey through 100 years of Cuban classical piano music, much of it never before recorded. The story begins with Gottschalk’s years in Cuba and is told chronologically as each important
Read more pianist-composer influenced by Gottschalk passes this influence on to the next generation, starting with Saumell to Espadero to Cervantes to de Blanck to Ernesto Lecuona and to his distinguished composer sister, Ernestina.

R E V I E W S:

“[Antonio Iturrioz] mesmerized audiences with his virtuosity and eloquently realized execution of this extraordinary piano transcription of La Nuit des Tropiques, Symphony Romantique."
-- Cranberry Coast Concerts, 2017

"Antonio Iturrioz's projection of the inner life in these works of Gottschalk et al is uncanny. Of course, his technical mastery is beyond complete but it is his realization of the ‘heart and soul’ of this music which is most impressive."
-- Andre Watts, March 26, 2018

Cuban-American pianist Antonio Iturrioz was a promising prodigy on the California scene whose career was derailed by a hand injury. With his understanding of the interplay between popular and classical idioms in Latin American music, he made an ideal candidate for the roster of the U.S. Steinway & Sons label with its exploration of century-old pianism. With his debut release for the label, Gottschalk and Cuba, he delivers a winner. There are several Gottschalk works here, including a piano transcription of the symphony A Night in the Tropics that goes back to a two-piano version of Gottschalk's own day. You might wish for a bit more drama in these, for Gottschalk the pianist was over the top. But the rest of the program is invaluable. Iturrioz includes not only Cuban composers influenced by Gottschalk, but one who influenced him (albeit with a work in homage to Gottschalk), Manuel Saumell. Along the way you are introduced to the contradanza and the danza, popular dances that have underlaid Cuban concert music for decades. A key figure is Hubert de Blanck, a Dutch expat who opened Cuba's first conservatory, knew Gottschalk's Cuban associates, and in turn taught Ernesto Lecuona, whose song Siempre en mi corazón almost won an Academy Award: Lecuona had the bad luck to be competing against "White Christmas." Many of Lecuona's songs exist as both vocal and piano versions, and Iturrioz catches the mix of melodicism, rhythmic roots, and harmonic subtlety effectively. Lecuona's sister and teacher, Ernestina Lecuona y Casada, is also represented. All the music is entertaining, and with the exception of the Gottschalk pieces, all are unknown, at least outside Cuba. Recommended.

-- AllMusic Guide

[This] album is a thoughtful and lovely program focusing on the underrated American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who was raised in New Orleans and spent several years in Cuba. Gottschalk and Cuba influenced each other mutually, and this album features works both by Gottschalk and by Cuban composers whom he influenced; several of these pieces are presented here in world-premiere recordings. This disc should be of particular interest to academic collections.

-- CDHotlist

“Give me your hand, my child; I predict that you will become the king of pianists.”

So said Fryderyk Chopin to American pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, after hearing him perform at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. Alkan and Liszt also recognised Gottschalk’s impressive talents, and, perhaps in homage to his European virtuoso counterparts, there are distinctly Lisztian idioms in the Symphonie Romantique “La nuit des tropiques”, which opens Cuban-American pianist Antonio Itturioz’s new recording ‘Gottschalk and Cuba’.

The Symphonie Romantique is especially significant as this is a world premiere recording of the first American symphony, transcribed in its entirety for one piano, as Gottschalk originally intended it and based on Antonio Itturioz’s extensive research. The second movement, ‘Fiesta Criolla’, is heard in Itturioz’s own transcription for one piano for the very first time, thus making this a historic recording. In its solo piano form, the work has a Lisztian grandeur with many complex virtuosic passages and rich textures.

Gottschalk was America’s first important pianist-composer. He was also an extraordinary traveler, giving virtuoso performances in Europe, Central and South America and the Caribbean. He fell in love with Cuba and its music, and lived there for extended periods. As a composer, his music combined his Creole heritage with the American, Latin American and Afro-Caribbean influences he absorbed during his travels – all expressed within the boundaries of classical piano writing prevalent in the 19th century.

The Symphonie Romantique provides the starting point for a chronological tour through Cuban classical music, much of it never before recorded. Piano music by Manuel Saumell Robredo, Nicholas Ruiz Espadero, Ignacio Cervantes, Hubert de Blanck, and Ernesto Lecuona features on this album, revealing Gottschalk’s influence and the high regard with which he was held by those who followed him. Many of the works show the influence of nineteenth-century European virtuoso pianist-composers – Chopin, Liszt, Alkan – shot through with the distinctly Afro-Cuban, Cuban and Creole rhythms and folk idioms. There are hints of ragtime and jazz too – a reminder of Gottschalk’s wide-ranging influence on American music of the 20th century. The album closes with Gottschalk’s El Cocoye, Op 80.

Itturioz’s own Cuban heritage allows him to really get to the heart of this music, and his understanding and insight is clear from the outset. The sensuous, foot-tapping rhythms feel natural and uncontrived, heady harmonic shadings are neatly caught, while the virtuosic passages are executed with aplomb. The overall sound is warm, romantic, lush and exotic.

A generous introduction to the classical piano music of Cuba and an important contribution to the appreciation and understanding of Gottschalk’s work and influence. Includes detailed liner notes by Gottschalk biographer, Dr. S. Frederick Starr.


-- The Cross-Eyed
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