Sunday, September 7, 2014

First Sunday Lecture - Jeffrey Wagner Speaks on the Life of Great American Composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk

Jeffrey Wagner was today’s guest speaker for the September First Sunday Lecture.  Mr. Wagner discussed the extraordinary life and work of American composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, America’s first native born piano virtuoso.  The presentation at the Smyrna Community Center was in honor of Classical Music Month. 

A crowd of 50 enjoyed the narrative on Gottscalk’s life, which included recordings of some of his most famous works.  The lecture was followed at 4:30 pm with a brief piano performance by Mr. Wagner at the Tara Simon Studios at 1306 Concord Rd., corner of Dunn Street, Smyrna.

Thank you Mr. Wagner for a wonderful presentation and mini concert.

About Louis Moreau Gottschalk:

Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829 - 1869) represents, in his work and life as a performer and composer, a remarkable American creative artist. A Southerner by birth (New Orleans was the city of his birth), Gottschalk showed himself to be an unusually great musical talent at an early age. His father was a Jewish Englishman and his mother of Creole origin who raised him as a Catholic. His prodigious feats as a youngster were recognized by prominent New Orleans citizens, and with their support he traveled with his father to Europe for several years of study and performance. There, his talents were applauded by no less an artist than Frederic Chopin, a notoriously critical listener and appraiser of musical gifts.

Upon returning to the U.S. Gottschalk toured as a performing pianist extensively. His tours took him to the Caribbean nations, as well as Central and South America. After a scandalous liaison with a young lady seminary student in California, he fled the US and spent the last four years of his life in South America. He died after contracting malaria while concertizing in Brazil,

Gottschalks's music, which will be excerpted and played, consists of much American folk material. In one popular work, he cleverly imitates the sounds of country banjo music on the piano, and in another the infectiously rhythmic sounds of Puerto Rican-African chant. As did many European composers of his generation, Gattschalk sought to bring fresh and authentic folk material into his music (as Chopin did, for example, with the music of his native Poland, or Dvorak with that of his native Bohemia).Gottschalk's life and work stands as a distinctively American voice dating from and era when America was spreading its wings artistically and culturally, thereby distinguishing itself from its strong Euro-American roots.

About Jeffrey Wagner:

Jeffrey Wagner holds a BA in Music from Northwestern University, an MM in Piano Performance from Indiana University, and has pursued doctoral studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Case Western Reserve University. His teachers in piano have included Walter Robert, Hans Graf, Vitya Vronsky, Paul Schenly, and Louise Szkodzinski. For the past 25 years he has contributed regularly to Clavier Magazine, for whom he is currently a Consulting Editor. During this time he has traveled around the USA and Canada to interview over 40 well-known pianists and teachers. He has twice won the "EdPress" award for excellence in educational journalism. Having pursued a career in software analysis and design, he continues his avocation of interviewing, writing, and performing primarily in the Chicago area, where he lives. He has served as pre-concert lecturer for the Northwest Choral Society in suburban Chicago, and also presented lectures for the Chicago Area Music Teachers Association.

The "First Sunday" lecture series is held in the Smyrna Public Library Meeting Room unless otherwise specified and is sponsored by the Friends of Smyrna Library.

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