revised, confusing to the observer who attempts to
place it among his productions in the order suggested
by its opus number. For although in the list of
his published works the “Marionettes”
follow immediately on the heels of the Concert Study
and “Les Orientales” the form in which
they are now most generally known represents the much
later period of the “Keltic” sonata—a
fact which will, however, be sufficiently evident
to anyone who studies the two versions carefully enough
to perceive the difference between more or less experimental
craftsmanship and ripe and heedful artistry.
The observer will notice in these pieces, incidentally,
the abandonment of the traditional Italian terms of
expression and the substitution of English words and
phrases, which are used freely and with adroitness
to indicate every shade of the composer’s meaning.
In place of the stereotyped terms of the music-maker’s
familiarly limited vocabulary, we have such a system
of direct and elastic expression as Schumann adopted.
Thus one finds, in the “Prologue,” such
unmistakable and illuminating directions as:
“with sturdy good humour,” “pleadingly,”
“mockingly”; in the “Soubrette”—“poutingly”;
in the “Lover”—in the “Villain”—“with
sinister emphasis,” “sardonically.”
This method, which MacDowell has followed consistently
in all his later works, has obvious advantages; and
it becomes in his hands a picturesque and stimulating
means for the conveyance of his intentions. Its
defect, equally obvious, is that it is not, like the
conventional Italian terminology, universally intelligible.
The “Twelve Studies” of op. 39 are less
original in conception and of less artistic moment
than the “Marionettes.” Their titles—among
which are a “Hunting Song,” a “Romance,”
a “Dance of the Gnomes,” and others of
like connotation—suggest, in a measure,
that imperfectly realised romanticism which I have
before endeavoured to separate from the intimate spirit
of sincere romance which MacDowell has so often succeeded
in embodying. The same thing is true, though in
a less degree, of the suite for orchestra (op. 42).
It is more Raff-like—not in effect but
in conception—than anything he has done.
There are four movements: “In a Haunted
Forest,” “Summer Idyl,” “The
Shepherdess’ Song,” and “Forest
Spirits,” together with a supplement, “In
October,” forming part of the original suite,
but not published until several years later.
The work, as a whole, has atmosphere, freshness, buoyancy,
and it is scored with exquisite skill and charm; but
somehow it does not seem either as poetic or as distinguished
as one imagines it might have been made. It is
carried through with delightful high spirits, and
with an expert order of craftsmanship; but it lacks
persuasion—lacks, to put it baldly, inspiration.
Passing over a sheaf of piano pieces, the “Twelve
Virtuoso Studies” of op. 46 (of which the “Novelette”
and “Improvisation” are most noteworthy),
we come to a stage of MacDowell’s development
in which, for the first time, he presents himself
as an assured and confident master of musical impressionism
and the possessor of a matured and fully individualised