Gottschalk's importance stems from the fact that some of his compositions were influenced by the music that eventually became ragtime and, ultimately, jazz. Indeed, the liner notes explain that Gottschalk used to encourage his band members to improvise. During his lifetime, he earned the nickname the "The Creole Chopin" and was the first musical superstar produced by the USA. This disc clearly illustrates the bizarre range of his styles and consists of orchestrations by both his contemporary collegues and by Jack Elliott in 1982. The playing of the pianists and the orchestra is first class and the music ranges from pure Victorianna such as "The dying poet" through to latin-inspired compositions.All of the compositions are extremely melodic.
However, the most interesting track is the final "A night in the Tropics" which recieves it's first recording in the original version. A two movement symphony, the second half of this composition is very reminscent of Milhaud's "Le beouf sur le toit" although it was written over seventy years earlier !!
Had the rest of the CD been uninteresting, the purchase would be justifed for the inclusion of the symphony alone. The fact that the whole of this disc is so enjoyable leads me to recommend it to any fan of either classical music or jazz. Undoutedly, this is the best Naxos CD in my collection.
I would like to see the musical director, Richard Rosenberg, pursue the music of other neglected proto-jazz composers such as Will Marion Cook and James Europe, but for the moment, this disc must remain a fascinating foretaste of a little known area of music.