George Wm. Warren’s “The Andes: Marche di Bravura”

In 1860, George William Warren resigned as St. Paul’s organist and choirmaster, ending a 13-year association with the church. He accepted a similar position at Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn, where he continued and strengthened his long friendship with artist Frederic E. Church and piano virtuoso and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk.

Church was in New York City until 1861, but even after his move to the future site of Olana, he traveled frequently to the city and maintained many ties to the city by mail and telegraph[1]. Warren must have profited by Church’s role on powerful funding organizations there.[2] Of Gottschalk, who was also in New York after an extended tour of South America, Warren said that after the move “for a few years I was more intimate with him than ever before.”[3]

Louis Moreau Gottschalk and George Wm. Warren, Saratoga Springs, 1864. The seated man may be pianist Harry Sanderson, with whom they concertized that summer (credit: J. Paul Getty Museum)

Warren’s strengthened ties with both Church and Gottschalk are exemplified in Warren’s composition “The Andes,” honoring Frederic E. Church’s masterpiece “The Heart of the Andes.” Gottschalk then helped Warren to create a stirring two-piano version that the two performed in four concerts in Brooklyn and Manhattan during 1863.

The Heart of the Andes

Following a sketching trip to South America in 1857, Church had begun work on “The Heart of the Andes” in his New York City studio. Working on this massive painting seems to have taken all the artist’s energy. In late 1858, an arts columnist reported, “Mr. Church will have but little leisure to receive visitors at his studio, and desires to be freed from unnecessary interruption.”[4] One visitor, however, seems to have been welcomed: George William Warren remembered, “I was with him many times when he painted the ‘Andes’”.[5]

Frederic E. Church’s “The Heart of the Andes” (credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

We do not know when Warren first saw the completed work. It was first displayed during April and May 1859 in Manhattan, and then went on an extended tour of London and the United States,[6] returning to the United States in early 1861. Warren may have seen it in April 1861, when it was displayed in Lowe’s Building at the corner of Court and Joralemon Streets in Brooklyn, a few blocks from Holy Trinity Church, where Warren was organist.[7] Gottschalk’s biographer says that both Warren and Gottschalk viewed the painting at Goupil’s gallery in Manhattan. This must have been in April 1862, the only time in this period that the painting was displayed at Goupil’s.[8]

This display in spring 1862 was to be the painting’s last public appearance for some time. Frederic Church had earlier sold the painting to William Tilden Blodgett for a then astounding figure of $10,000. After the display at Goupil’s, it was delivered to Blodgett, who installed it in a dining room especially designed to show off the work.[9]

George Warren reported a dramatic scene in that dining room at a dinner party he and Gottschalk attended. The event was probably a celebration of the installation of “The Heart of the Andes.” In response to a criticism of American music by an English nobleman, Gottschalk improvised a rousing version of George Root’s “Battle Cry of Freedom.” Warren describes the reaction of the attendees:

I never heard anything like it, and never will again; for Liszt himself could not have appreciated the situation, and Liszt is not Creole-American. The effect was earthquakean almost. These men of art are enthusiastic; and they were frantic. The uproar could have been heard a mile. Gottschalk was almost killed with embraces, – and the gentleman from England had departed.[10]

The Andes: Marche di Bravura

Warren later reported that his enthusiasm for the painting led him to write “some music which is published for the Piano – with an illustration (by him [Church]) in the title.”[11] This is “The Andes: Marche di Bravura, Homage to Church’s Picture, ‘The Heart of the Andes’,” published late in 1863.[12] The cover illustration is included in the catalog of Church’s works, under the title “Andean Snow Peak.”[13]

Like all of Warren’s other published piano pieces, “The Andes” first appeared in print as a work for a single instrument. It is certainly possible that it was composed in that form, but, as we will see, it first performed publicly as a work for two pianos.

Cover to George Wm. Warren’s, “The Andes: Marche di Bravura, Homage to Church’s Picture, ‘The Heart of the Andes'”

We do not know when Warren wrote the piece. He could have composed it as early as 1859, as he watched Church paint. Or, as S. Frederick Starr implies, could it have been written soon after he and Gottschalk viewed the painting at Goupil’s in the spring of 1862?[14] A third timing for the composition is suggested by Robert Offergeld, who describes the work as “polemical” and suggests that it was written as a response to the event in Blodgett’s dining room. Like Gottschalk’s improvisation on “Battle Cry of Freedom,” “[i]t is a spirited march against the Philistines for use as propaganda for the American music party.”[15]

Warren’s composition “The Andes” was first performed publicly in the spring of 1863 at Gottschalk’s Grand Concert in the Brooklyn Academy on March 28, 1863 with Warren and Gottschalk as the duo pianists.[16] That first performance was enthusiastically reviewed in the New York Times: “This [“The Andes”] was most heartily encored, and will by no means damage the already high appreciation in which Mr. Warren is held in Brooklyn.”[17]

But all reviews were not so positive. On its first page, a Boston newspaper printed a review of the March concert signed “Blott,” describing “The Andes” as “a trashy sort of March for two pianos, filled with polka-like reminiscences.”[18]

When the concert was repeated April 7 at Irving Hall in Brooklyn[19], “Blott” again picked up his pen and dipped it in acid. At the Irving Hall concert, Gottschalk, he wrote, “has also played a pack of trash called “March in Homage to Church’s Picture ‘Heart of the Andes’ ” (for two pianos), with the composer, a Mr. Geo. Wm. Warren, who is one of the most clownish of pianists when compared – as of course he had to be – with the polished Gottschalk.”[20]

This critique reminds us of a Troy critic almost a decade earlier who described Warren’s “fanciful and somewhat comic style” of improvisation[21], but “Blott” may have been writing more out of jealousy than impartial musical judgment. “Blott” was the pseudonym of Charles Jerome Hopkins, an aspiring pianist and composer starting a career in Brooklyn at the same time as Warren.[22]

Gottschalk and Warren repeated the piece two additional times that year: on November 7 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music[23] and November 9 at Irving Hall.[24] As far as we know, these four were the only performances of the version for two pianos.

In all advertisements for this two-piano version, Warren is named as the composer. But the fact that Gottschalk played in all four public performances has led some to surmise that Gottschalk had a hand in either the composition of the original work or the creation of the two-piano version. Robert Offergeld makes the most dramatic claim, writing that after Warren composed the piece “Gottschalk promptly made a thunderous two-piano version of it.”[25] Starr is less definite, saying only that Warren composed the two-piano version, “apparently with Gottschalk’s involvement.”[26]

Louis Moreau Gottschalk and George William Warren, Saratoga Springs 1864 (credit: Gottschalk Collection, New York Public Library)

The work for duo pianos was never published and I wonder if it was ever written out in that form. Given both pianists’ skill at improvisation, it seems likely that large parts were improvised in these early performances. I can imagine the two collaborating with only a brief sketch of the work before them, sharing improvisational riffs and playing off of the other’s ideas. If so, each of the four joint performances may have been different, each a joyous and fresh take on Warren’s original sketch.

[1] Gerald L. Carr, “Frederic Edwin Church as a Public Figure,” in Franklin Kelly and Gerald L. Carr, The Early Landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church, 1845 – 1854 (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum, 1987), 14

[2] “Church was also extremely well connected: his friends included some of the richest and most powerful figures in New York, and he sat on several artistic and philanthropic committees including the founding trustees of Metropolitan Museum.” Caroly Troyen “Washington: Frederic Edwin Church,” Burlington Magazine, January 1990, 70-72, quoted in Bridget Falconer-Salkeld, “Louis Moreau Gottschalk: Evidence for the Dedication of ‘Adieu funèbre’,” American Music, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Fall, 2007), 357.

[3] Octavia Hensel (pseudonym of Mary Alice Ives Seymour), Life and Letters of Louis Moreau Gottschalk (Boston: Oliver Ditson and Company, 1870), 208.

[4] “Fine Arts,” New York Evening Post 15 Nov 1858, 2.

[5] 29 May 1900 letter from Warren to Isabel Charlotte Church. Courtesy of Olana State Historic Site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The full relevant portion reads: “I was with him many times when he painted the ‘Andes’ & my enthusiasm made me venture some music which is published for the Piano – with an illustration (by him) in the title & which I will have mailed to you in a few days. I have many letters from him. Some of the most valuable I had to part with (to autograph seekers) etc, etc. I am sure that the Dudley Warner’s proposed volume will be interesting and most valuable.”

[6] The first classified advertisements appeared in New York Evening Express 29 Apr 1859 page 2 and New York Tribune 29 Apr 1859 page 1. The final insertion (“Will Close This Day”) is New York Tribune 23 May 1859 page 2. Church’s agent, John McClure, had originally intended to display the painting at Lyric Hall [see classified advertisements, New York Tribune 25 Apr 1859 page 2 and 27 Apr 1859 page 2]. But gas lighting there made viewing the painting so difficult that after a single day McClure and Church moved the painting to the Studio Building, where it could be illuminated by a skylight. See Kevin J. Avery, “’The Heart of the Andes’ Exhibited: Frederic E. Church’s Window on the Equatorial World” The American Journal of Art, volume 18, number 1 (Winter, 1986), 52-72. Gerald L. Carr includes a photograph of one of the Studio Building shop-window sign in The Early Landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church, 15.

[7] See advertisements in New York Herald 12 Apr 1861, 17 Apr 1861; New York World 27 Apr 1861, 29 Apr 1861, 30 Apr 1861, 1 May 1861.

[8] S. Frederick Starr, Bamboula!: The Life and Times of Louis Moreau Gottschalk (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 355, citing The New York Times 1 Mar 1863. This reference is clearly an error: there is no mention of the painting having been displayed at Goupil’s in the New York Times for that date or elsewhere during early 1863. There are, on the other hand, frequent references to a display there in late March through early May 1862. See, for instance, “Amusements This Evening,” New York Times 29 Mar 1862 page 7 and 31 Mar 1862, page 4. The “Final Exhibition” of the work was advertised in the New York Tribune 1 May 1862, page 7.

[9] “Paintings,” Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 28 Mar 1863, 2.

[10] Hensel, 208-209. S. Frederick Starr identifies the nobleman and provides important additional context in Bamboula!, 355-356.

[11] 29 May 1900 letter from Warren to Isabel Charlotte Church. Courtesy of Olana State Historic Site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

[12] Warren inscribed Church’s copy on November 12, 1863.

[13] “Andean Snow Peak,” #729 in Gerald L. Carr, Frederic Edwin Church: Catalogue Raisonné of Works of Art at Olana State Historic Site (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 507.

[14] Starr, 355.

[15] Robert Offergeld, liner notes for The Wind Demon, Ivan Davis, piano, New World Records compact disc 80257-2, 9-10.

[16] The 28 Mar 1863 concert at the Brooklyn Academy was advertised in New York Herald 27 Mar 1863 and 28 Mar 1863; announced New York World 28 Mar 1863; previewed in Brooklyn Daily Eagle 28 Mar 1863; reviewed New York Times 30 Mar 1863, Brooklyn Daily Eagle 30 Mar1863.

[17] “Amusements,” New York Times, 30 Mar 1863. In another slight aimed at Warren, “Blott” also remarked that during this concert Gottschalk “was recalled after every piece excepting the ‘Heart of the Andes.’”

[18] “Letter from Our New York Art Correspondent,” Boston Evening Transcript 3 Apr 1863.

[19] The 7 Apr 1863 concert in Irving Hall, Manhattan “First Grand Concert Third Series of Mr. L. M. Gottschalk” was  previewed in Brooklyn Daily Eagle 3 Apr 1863; advertised New York Herald 2, 3, 5, 6 Apr 1863, New York World 6, 7 Apr 1863; announced New York World 7 Apr 1863; reviewed New York World 10 Apr 1863

A broadside for the concert is reproduced in Thomas Nelson, George Wm. Warren: Bridging the Sacred and Secular in Nineteenth-Century American Music (Albany: Albany Institute of History & Art, 2010), 25. The bottom of the broadside mentions the next concert: “Gottschalk’s Second Grand Concert” on 9 Apr 1863.

The New York World 10 Apr 1863 review specifically mentions Warren and Gottschalk performing “The Andes.” It also refers to a repeat of the concert “last night” (9 Apr, “Second Grand Concert”), but it is not clear if the march was performed again at that concert. “The Andes” is not mentioned in reviews of “Third Grand Concert” 11 Apr 1863 [New York Evening Press 11 Apr 1863, New York Tribune 11 Apr 1863, New York World 11 Apr 1863, New York World 13 Apr 1863]

[20] “From Our N.Y. Musical Correspondent,” Boston Evening Transcript 14 Apr 1863, 1.

[21] Letter to the editor, signed “Philomel,” Musical World, volume 10, number 9 (28 Oct 1854), 102.

[22] “Blott” is identified in correspondence (signed “Jacques”) published in Brooklyn Daily Eagle 22 Apr 1863. Hopkins advertised a concert of his own on 19 May 1863 in the 14, 15, 16 and 19 May 1863 issues of Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Hopkins gave 21 and 24 Oct concerts with Gottschalk, advertised in Brooklyn Daily Eagle 10 and 21 Oct 1863.

[23] The 7 Nov 1863 concert in the Brooklyn Academy of Music was advertised in Brooklyn Daily Eagle 3 Nov 1863, 5 Nov 1863, 6 Nov 1863 and 7 Nov 1863; previewed in Brooklyn Daily Eagle 6 Nov 1863; announced New York Tribune 6 Nov 1863; reviewed Brooklyn Daily Eagle 9 Nov 1863.

[24] A broadside for the 9 Nov 1863 concert in Irving Hall, Manhattan (“Grand Gottschalk Concert for the Benefit of the Rose Hill Ladies’ Soldiers Relief Association.” is reproduced in Thomas Nelson, George Wm. Warren: Bridging the Sacred and Secular in Nineteenth-Century American Music (Albany: Albany Institute of History & Art, 2010), 25.

[25] Offergeld, 10.

[26] Starr, 355.

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