Edward MacDowell eBook

Lawrence Gilman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 115 pages of information about Edward MacDowell.

CHAPTER V

A MATURED IMPRESSIONIST

With the completion and production of his “Indian” suite for orchestra (op. 48) MacDowell came, in a measure, into his own.  Mr. Philip Hale, writing apropos of a performance of the suite at a concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra[12] in December, 1897, did not hesitate to describe the work as “one of the noblest compositions of modern times.”  Elsewhere he wrote concerning it:  “The thoughts are the musical thoughts of high imagination; the expression is that of the sure and serene master.  There are here no echoes of Raff, or Wagner, or Brahms, men that have each influenced mightily the musical thought of to-day.  There is the voice of one composer:  a virile, tender voice that does not stammer, does not break, does not wax hysterical:  the voice of a composer that not only must pour out that which has accumulated within him, but knows all the resources of musical oratory—­in a word, the voice of MacDowell.”

[12] The suite is dedicated to this Orchestra and its former conductor, Mr. Emil Paur.

MacDowell has derived the greater part of the thematic substance of the suite, as he acknowledges in a prefatory note, from melodies of the North American Indians, with the exception of a few subsidiary themes of his own invention.  “If separate titles for the different movements are desired,” he says in his note, “they should be arranged as follows:  I.  ‘Legend’; II.  ‘Love Song’; III.  ‘In War-time’; IV.  ‘Dirge’; V. Village Festival’”—­a concession in which again one traces a hint of the inexplicable and amusing reluctance of the musical impressionist to acknowledge without reservation the programmatic basis of his work.  In the case of the “Indian” suite, however, the intention is clear enough, even without the proffered titles; for the several movements are unmistakably based upon firmly held concepts of a definite dramatic and emotional significance.  As supplemental aids to the discovery of his poetic purposes, the phrases of direction which he has placed at the beginning of each movement are indicative, taken in connection with the titles which he sanctions.  The first movement, “Legend,” is headed:  Not fast.  With much dignity and character; the second movement, “Love Song,” is to be played Not fast.  Tenderly; the third movement, “In War-time,” is marked:  With rough vigour, almost savagely; the fourth, “Dirge”:  Dirge-like, mournfully; the fifth, “Village Festival”:  Swift and light.

Here, certainly, is food for the imagination, the frankest of invitations to the impressionable listener.  There is no reason to believe that the music is built throughout upon such a detailed and specific plan as underlies, for example, the “Lancelot and Elaine”; the notable fact is that MacDowell has attained in this work to a power and weight of utterance, an eloquence of communication, a ripeness

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Edward MacDowell from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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