Among the romantic incidents narrated of this visit of Gottschalk to Madrid, one is too characteristic to be overlooked, as showing the tender, generous nature of the artist. An imaginative Spanish girl, whose fancy had been excited by the public enthusiasm about Gottschalk, but was too ill to attend his concerts, had a passionate desire to hear him play, and pined away in the fret-fulness of ungratified desire. Her family were not able to pay Gottschalk for the trouble of giving such an exclusive concert, but, to satisfy the sick girl, made the circumstances known to the artist. Gottschalk did not hesitate a moment, but ordered his piano to be conveyed to the humble abode of the patient. Here by her bedside he played for hours to the enraptured girl, and the strain of emotion was so great that her life ebbed away before he had finished the final chords. Gottschalk remained in Spain for two years, and it was not till the autumn of 1852 that he returned to Paris, to give a series of farewell concerts before returning again to America, where his father and brothers were anxiously awaiting him.
Before Gottschalk’s departure from Paris, Hector Berlioz thus wrote of his protege, for whom we may fancy he had a strong bias of liking; and no judge is so generous in estimation as one artist of another, unless the critic has personal cause of dislike, and then no judge is so sweepingly unjust: “Gottschalk is one of the very small number who possess all the different elements of a consummate pianist, all the faculties which surround him with an irresistible prestige, and give him a sovereign power. He is an accomplished musician; he knows just how far fancy may be indulged in expression. He knows the limits beyond which any freedom taken with the rhythm produces only confusion and disorder, and upon these limits he never encroaches. There is an exquisite grace in his manner of phrasing sweet melodies and throwing off light touches from the higher keys. The boldness, brilliancy, and originality of his play at once dazzle and astonish, and the infantile naivete of his smiling caprices, the charming simplicity with which he renders simple things, seem to belong to another individuality, distinct from that which marks his thundering energy. Thus the success of M. Gottschalk before an audience of musical cultivation is immense.”
But even this enthusiastic praise was pale in comparison with the eulogiums of some of the New York journals, after the first concert of Gottschalk at Niblo’s Garden Theatre. One newspaper, which arrogated special strength and good judgment in its critical departments, intimated that after such a revelation it was useless any longer to speak of Beethoven! Whether Beethoven as a player or Beethoven as a composer was meant was left unknown. Gottschalk at his earlier concerts played many of his own compositions, made to order for the display of his virtuosoism, and their brilliant, showy style was very well calculated to arouse the enthusiasm of the general public. Perhaps the most sound and thoughtful opinion of Gottschalk expressed during the first enthusiasm created by his playing was that of a well-known musical journal published in Boston: