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America’s first pianist gets a new resting place at last

Louis Moreau Gottschalk was the first US-born pianist to win an international career.  Born in New Orleans in 1829, he was turned down by the Paris Conservatoire but got enough tour dates to do Europe on less than $5 a day. His publicity sheets claimed that Chopin called him ‘the King of Pianists’.

Back home, he won widespread popularity until an 1860s sex scandal in California sent him off on tour again, this time to South America, where he collapsed on a stage in Rio, shouting the word ‘Morte!’ He was only 40 and had lived a helluva life. He composed music, emulating Liszt by offering recollections of the places he’d been and the music he had heard.

In 1870 the family brought his remains back to Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn, where they crowned his catafalque with an Angel of Music statue. The catafalque crumbled and the statue was stolen.

So here’s the good news: admirers of Gottschalk have raised $200,000 to restore the monument. It will be rededicated with music this Saturday. For details, see here.

(c) Photo by Stefano Giovannini. Brooklyn Pianist John Davis, will play a piano tribute at the unveiling in Green-Wood Cemetery.

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