Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Louis Moreau Gottschalk

Music History Monday: We All Make Mistakes

Today we celebrate the 188th birthday of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. During his all-too-brief, 40-year lifetime, Gottschalk was considered to be the greatest pianist and composer ever born in the Western hemisphere, the “Chopin of the New World.” An American patriot, he foreswore his allegiance to his native South and embraced the Northern cause during the Civil War because of his unreserved hatred of slavery. During the Civil War he travelled and concertized tirelessly across the North and Midwest of the United States, inspiring his audiences with patriotic compositions and arrangements and giving away much of his earnings to veterans’ organizations. He was born in 1829 in what was then the most cultured and diverse city in the United States: New Orleans. Gottschalk’s heritage was diverse as well. His father was a Jewish businessman from London and his mother was Creole: a Louisiana native of French decent. He was a musical prodigy whose early compositions synthesized the incredibly different sorts of music he heard around him in New Orleans: African music, Caribbean music, Creole music, as well as the classics of the Euro-tradition. Gottschalk composed “Ragtime” fifty years before the term was invented. In some of his pieces he used the […]

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Louis Moreau Gottschalk: The Justin Bieber Of 1860s San Francisco

“Fame” and “fortune” remain two of the great bugaboos for those morality police who, possessing neither, would make our lives miserable for wanting either. I personally see no harm in fortune. Yes, I am aware that “money can’t buy you love” but it can buy just about everything else, most especially time: time to do things that do not in themselves generate money, like playing and composing music. Yes, I have read that wealth encourages sloth and boredom, but these seem to me to be operator errors and not something intrinsic to wealth per se. Certainly, there is nothing slothful about Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, or Jeff Bezos. Fame however, is another thing. At the very least, fame destroys any prospect of privacy and freedom of motion. The pleasures small and large we all enjoy — a stroll to the grocery store; a visit to a museum; a quiet dinner in a restaurant; going to see a movie; being a tourist – are virtually impossible for the famous. Can we imagine George Clooney or Beyoncé or Tiger Woods living normal lives? We might envy them their wealth, but they are birds in a gilded cage. Fame — celebrity […]

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