Edward MacDowell eBook

Lawrence Gilman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 150 pages of information about Edward MacDowell.


In almost all of his songs the voice is predominant over the piano part—­although he is far, indeed, from writing mere accompaniments:  the support which he gives the voice is consistently important, for he brings to bear upon it all his rich resources of harmonic expression.  But though he makes the voice the paramount element, he uses it, in general, rather as a vehicle for the unconscious exposition of a determined lyricism than as an instrument of precise emotional utterance.  When one thinks of how Hugo Wolf, for example, or Debussy, would have treated the phrase, “to wake again the bitter joy of love,” in “Fair Springtide,” it will be felt, I think, that MacDowell’s setting leaves something to be desired on the score of emotional verity, although the song, as a whole, is one of the loveliest and most spontaneous he has written.  I do not mean to say that he does not often achieve an ideal correspondence between the significance of his text and the effect of his music; but when he does—­as in, for instance, that superb tragedy in little, “The Sea,"[16] or in the still finer “Sunrise"[17]—­one’s impression is that it is the fortunate result of chance, rather than the outcome of deliberate artistic purpose.  It is in songs of an untrammelled lyricism that his art finds its chief opportunity.  In such he is both delightful and satisfying—­in, for instance, the six flower songs, “From an Old Garden”; in “Confidence” and “In the Woods” (op. 47); in “The Swan Bent Low to the Lily,” “A Maid Sings Light,” and “Long Ago” (op. 56); and in the delectable “To the Golden Rod,” from his last song group (op. 60).  This is music of blithe and captivating allurement, of grave or riant tenderness, of compelling fascination; and in it, the word and the tone are ideally mated.  Yet even in others of his songs in which they do not so invariably correspond, one must acknowledge gladly the beauty and freshness of the music itself:  such music as he has given us in “Constancy” (op. 58), in “As the Gloaming Shadows Creep” (op. 56), in “Fair Springtide”—­which represent his ripest utterances as a song writer.  If he is not, in this particular form, quite at his happiest, he is among the foremost of those who have kept alive in the modern tradition the conception of the song as a medium of lyric utterance no less than of precise dramatic signification.

[16] No.  VII. of the “Eight Songs,” op. 47.

[17] Op. 58, No.  II.



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Edward MacDowell from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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