This is not merely an appreciation of Edward MacDowell as a man and a composer, but a study of the influences and natural endowments that combined to produce his style, a comparison of his work with that of others who achieved fame in other branches of the fine arts, all of which he felt were closely allied and supplemental, and a glance at his ideals and their evolution at Peterboro.
Most of his compositions are written around some poetic idea and are so suggestive and appealing to the imagination that in studying them the native poetic fancy is easily aroused; but the full effect is lost to the casual hearer who is not familiar with the theme. The accompanying poems are interpretations of some of his best-known piano numbers, based upon the briefly indicated poetic idea upon which they are founded, reinforced by a careful intellectual study of each composition and its appeal to the individual creative faculty of the author.
The sonnet to MacDowell was written at the beginning of the two darkened years preceding his death, when he forgot that there was such a thing as music.
“A.D. 1620” and “Song” are from the “Sea Pieces.” The former describes the sailing of the galleon bearing the Pilgrim Fathers to America. The “Song,” which is distinctly Irish in its melody, seems to me to be sung by a lad on board the galleon, who sings and whistles to keep up the courage of his fellow-pilgrims, thereby forgetting his own pain.
The “Shadow Dance” is written three notes to two, and this difficult musical form is represented by the three shadows dancing before two people. “A Deserted Farm” is a lyric description of the now beautiful “Hill Crest” as he found it. “The Spirit Call” is suggested by the Celtic vein of mystery and haunting sadness pervading most of the MacDowell music.
The sonnet “To a Wild Rose” was inspired by a rumor from the musician’s sick room that his night had passed and he would recover; but this was a false hope, and it was not long until he was sleeping on a green hill-side at Peterboro, his resting-place, in the grandeur of its simplicity, suggesting the modest, child-hearted, nature-loving man who had passed on beyond earth’s discord.
The other poems in this little collection speak for themselves, and all are offered as a handful of rosemary to one who ever harkened to the simplest strain.—E.F.P.
HIS WORK AND IDEALS
"Late explorers say they have found some nations that have no God; but I have not read of any that had no music.” “Music means harmony, harmony means love, love means—God."—Sidney Lanier.
“Music is love in search of a word,” said the same poet-musician. He was born full of the music and the love, and so was enabled to find and transmit to the world the undying word.