To the Editor:
In his appreciative article about Louis Moreau Gottschalk, “the first important American classical composer,” Terry Teachout comments on recent efforts to revive interest in the composer’s work [“Our Gottschalk,” September]. He rightly mentions Lincoln Kirstein’s role in encouraging choreographers at the New York City Ballet to use Gottschalk’s music in George Balanchine’s ballet Tarantella, first performed in 1964, but he fails to mention another audience favorite that was performed to Gottschalk’s music and that premiered more than a decade earlier. I am referring to Ruthanna Boris’s Cakewalk (1951).
Boris had a long association with Balanchine; she appeared in Serenade, his first American-made work. It was Kirstein—a “lifelong advocate of distinctively American music,” in Mr. Teachout’s words—who suggested to her that she make a ballet to music by Gottschalk (“whom nobody had heard of then, except for Balanchine,” according to Boris). Performed to a selection of Gottschalk’s piano pieces, including “Bamboula” and “La Gallina,” as well as some of his minstrel tunes, Cakewalk was an immediate hit with audiences and critics alike, and remained in the repertory for many years.
New York City
To the Editor:
I cannot recall an essay on music that I found as enjoyable as Terry Teachout’s affectionate portrait of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. After reading it, I was inspired immediately to obtain both Gottschalk’s records and his writings, which I have since savored.
It is clear to me that Gottschalk was an artist that only America could have produced—and only America could have embraced. My thanks to Mr. Teachout for his lovely introduction.