|Image via Le Wik|
Gottschalk was from New Orleans, born in 1829. He was a musical prodigy, and at age 13 was sent to Paris for a classical musical education. In the United States, New Orleans was considered "french" and perhaps a little disreputable for that; in Paris, he was considered more than a little disreputable because he was American: the head of the Piano faculty at the Paris Conservatory sniffed that America was a country of steam engines and that Paris had no need of that sort of nonsense. Gottschalk didn't even get a hearing.
But the Gottschalk family had connections in Paris, which got him an invitation to perform. His creole flavored music captured the imagination of the Paris musical society, leading to the great Chopin himself attending one recital. Chopin was impressed enough to predict great things for the young Louis. That's quite a recommendation, one that opened doors.
When Gottschalk returned to America he began a tour of the Caribbean and South America, where he picked up even more "exotic influences" that diffused in his compositions. He traveled all over (100,000 miles on trains, it was said) and performed over 1,000 concerts. He became certainly the most well known pianist in the Americas - fulfilling Chopin's prophecy.
Le Banjo is his best known composition, sometimes performed by as many as 40 pianos at the same time. This performance by Cecille Licad gives the exotic flavor and high energy of Gottschalk's works.
The final irony of his life was that he died after playing a song called "Death" at a concert in Rio de Janeiro. He was only 40.