The Composer Laureate of Mardi Gras
On Fat Tuesday, let's honor the foremost native classical son of New Orleans — who also happened to be America's first classical superstar. Pianist, composer, showman, part Franz Liszt, part P. T. Barnum, he dazzled Europe (including Chopin, Berlioz and Victor Hugo) in his teens with his virtuosity, charisma and exotic compositions; he barnstormed relentlessly through the U.S. in the 1850s and '60s (aside from five years in the Caribbean), performing at least 1,100 concerts over that span; then he conquered Latin America with "monster" concerts featuring upwards of 800 musicians — all in a life of 40 years. Of German, Jewish and French-Caribbean heritage, he wrote some of the earliest classical works redolent of the rich cultural gumbo of the Crescent City, seasoned with African, Latin and Creole influences. Best of all, his music is an absolute blast, as you'll hear from five different pianists doing all his hits today in WFCR's classical music. He'd be disappointed it was only five and that they weren't all playing at once, but hey, anything can be imagined on the radio. So please tune in and laissez les bons temps rouler to the music of the one, the only, Louis Moreau Gottschalk!