Edward MacDowell eBook

Lawrence Gilman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 150 pages of information about Edward MacDowell.
which underlies it is singularly fine, strong, and controlled.  The strange and burdened winds, the subtle delirium, the disorder of sense, that stir at times in the music of Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, are not to be found here.  In Wagner, in certain songs by Debussy, one often feels, as Pater felt in William Morris’s “King Arthur’s Tomb,” the tyranny of a moon which is “not tender and far-off, but close down—­the sorcerer’s moon, large and feverish,” and the presence of a colouring that is “as of scarlet lilies”; and there is the suggestion of poison, with “a sudden bewildered sickening of life and all things.”  In the music of MacDowell there is no hint of these matters; there is rather the infinitely touching emotion of those rare beings who are in their interior lives both passionate and shy:  they know desire and sorrow, supreme ardour and enamoured tenderness; but they do not know either the languor or the dementia of eroticism; they are haunted and swept by beauty, but they are not sickened or oppressed by it.  Nor is their passion mystical and detached.  MacDowell in his music is full-blooded, but he is never febrile:  in this (though certainly in nothing else) he is like Brahms.  The passion by which he is swayed is never, in its expression, ambiguous or exotic, his sensuousness is never luscious.  It is difficult to think of a single passage from which that accent upon which I have dwelt—­the accent of nobility, of a certain chivalry, a certain rare and spontaneous dignity—­is absent.  Yet he can be, withal, wonderfully tender and deeply impassioned, with a sharpness of emotion that is beyond denial.  In such songs as “Deserted” (op. 9); “Menie” (op. 34); “The Robin Sings in the Apple Tree,” “The West Wind Croons in the Cedar Trees” (op. 47); “The Swan Bent Low to the Lily,” “As the Gloaming Shadows Creep” (op. 56); “Constancy” (op. 58); “Fair Springtide” (op. 60); in “Lancelot and Elaine”; in “Told at Sunset,” from the “Woodland Sketches”; in “An Old Love Story,” from “Fireside Tales”:  in this music the emotion is the distinctive emotion of sex; but it is the sexual emotion known to Burns rather than to Rossetti, to Schubert rather than to Wagner.

He had the rapt and transfiguring imagination, in the presence of nature, which is the special possession of the Celt.  Yet he was more than a mere landscape painter.  The human drama was for him a continually moving spectacle; he was most sensitively attuned to its tragedy and its comedy,—­he was never more potent, more influential, indeed, than in celebrating its events.  He is at the summit of his powers, for example, in the superb pageant of heroic grief and equally heroic love which is comprised within the four movements of the “Keltic” sonata, and in the piercing sadness and the transporting tenderness of the “Dirge” in the “Indian” suite.

Project Gutenberg
Edward MacDowell from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook