Gottschalk’s piano piece is very evocative of banjo sounds. There is a lot of syncopation in this piece, which is reminiscent of American anthems and other patriotic pieces. This creates an element of excitement, which is exactly what a lot of those similar American composers were looking for—they wanted to compose pieces that would demonstrate their nationalism and support for their country. Typically, when rhythms are syncopated, it makes the music sound happier, more dance-like and adds a “vivace” feeling to the overall mood. At the beginning of the piece, the two hands play closely together, which means that they are in the same register. Since the banjo doesn’t have as big of a range as the piano, this is one way that Gottschalk mirrors the abilities of the banjo.He composed a lot of running notes, which is reminiscent of fast and lively banjo music in order to keep the tempo going or provide a stable accompaniment for a soloist—in this case, once the right hand in the piano comes in to play the melody. Since the banjo is usually played during gatherings, fairs or other types of events, it is used to bring people together and create a positive atmosphere. The music isn’t meant to sound melancholy or to drag. Gottschalk is able to take a motif that he establishes early on and add textures on top of that to create variations on his theme. This is done by adding various ornamentations, which is also common in banjo music because a lot of players will take a basic theme and then improvise on top of it to showcase their skills. Overall, I found this piece to be very interesting and enjoyed listening. I think Gottschalk did a fantastic job making the piano sound like a banjo and other typical American themes, such as what a composer like Copeland would have done.
- PermittedAloud. “Gottschalk – Le Banjo, Fantaisie Grotesque, Op. 15 (1855).” YouTube, YouTube, 19 May 2013. Web.