Edward MacDowell eBook

Lawrence Gilman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 150 pages of information about Edward MacDowell.
in the fabrication of a pasteboard world of “gloomy forests, enchanted castles, impossible maidens, and the obsolete profession of magic,” and that other and imperishable Spirit of Romance whose infrequent embodiment in modern music I have remarked. That is a romance in no wise divorced from reality—­is, in fact, but reality diviningly perceived; if it uses the old Romanticistic properties, it uses them not because of any inherent validity which they possess, but because they may at times be made to serve as symbols.  It deals in a truth that is no less authentic because it is conveyed in terms of a beauty that may often be in the last degree incalculable and aerial.

It is to its persistent embodiment of this valid spirit of romance that MacDowell’s work owes its final and particular distinction.  I know of no composer who has displayed a like sensitiveness to the finer stuff of romance.  He has chosen more than occasionally to employ, in the accomplishment of his purposes, what seems at first to be precisely the magical apparatus so necessary to the older Romanticism.  Dryads and elves are his intimate companions, and he dwells at times under fairy boughs and in enchanted woods; but for him, as for the poets of the Celtic tradition, these things are but the manifest images of an interior passion and delight.  Seen in the transfiguring mirror of his music, the moods and events of the natural world, and of the drama that plays incessantly in the hearts of men, are vivified into shapes and designs of irresistible beauty and appeal.  He is of those quickened ministers of beauty who attest for us the reality of that changeless and timeless loveliness which the visible world of the senses and the invisible world of the imagination are ceaselessly revealing to the simple of heart, the dream-filled, and the unwise.

MacDowell presents throughout the entire body of his work the noteworthy spectacle of a radical without extravagance, a musician at once in accord with, and detached from, the dominant artistic movement of his day.  The observation is more a definition than an encomium.  He is a radical in that, to his sense, music is nothing if not articulate.  Wagner’s luminous phrase, “the fertilisation of music by poetry,” would have implied for him no mere aesthetic abstraction, but an intimate and ever-present ideal.  He was a musician, yet he looked out upon the visible world and inward upon the world of the emotions through the transforming eyes of the poet.  He would have none of a formal and merely decorative beauty—­a beauty serving no expressional need of the heart or the imagination.  In this ultimate sense he is to be regarded as a realist—­a realist with the romantic’s vision, the romantic’s preoccupation; and yet he is as alien to the frequently unleavened literalism of Richard Strauss as he is to the academic ideal.  Though he conceives the prime mission of music to be interpretive, he insists no less emphatically that, in its function as an expressional

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Edward MacDowell from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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