1. The Hindoo Maiden.
2. Stork’s Story.
3. In Tyrol.
4. The Swan.
5. Visit of the Bear.
The titles of these pieces are quite characteristic of MacDowell, and are early indications of his love of the imaginative and fanciful atmosphere of fairy tales. The pieces were originally intended to form a suite for orchestra, but the opportunity arose to have them printed as pianoforte duets and the composer was not in a financial position to refuse the offer. Unfortunately he destroyed the orchestral sketches. The Moon Pictures are as a whole charming and imaginative in conception, and represent the fancies of the immortal Hans Andersen, although they are far from being truly representative of MacDowell as we now know him.
Composed, Frankfort, Winter, 1884-5. First Published, 1885 (J. Hainauer).
Dedicated to Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.
With the appearance of Hamlet and Ophelia MacDowell found his reputation considerably increasing. The work was performed in a number of German towns soon after its first appearance, and within a year following its publication the Ophelia section was performed in the composer’s native city, New York. In the year following this latter event, the Hamlet section was played in the same city. The first complete performance at Boston, Mass., was on January 28th, 1893, the Boston Symphony Orchestra playing with Nikisch as conductor. Hamlet and Ophelia really consists of two separate poems for orchestra, and was first published in that form, but MacDowell himself afterwards authorised its alteration into one work, and he named it First Symphonic Poem. The piece is not an altogether unworthy product of his genius. It bears unmistakable evidence of Teutonic influence, but there is a certain originality of thought and a freshness of spirit about it that make for serious work. It was by far the most important of MacDowell’s music up to this period, for in addition to a skill and brilliance of harmonic and orchestral colouring, it has a depth of feeling and fuller exposition of personality than its predecessors. It has a sense of romance, a beauty of melodic outline and an attempted justification of title that are, at least, sincerely effected, and although it is far from being one of its author’s representative works, it must be remembered that he was but twenty-four years of age at its completion. As a youthful achievement it is very fine, the creation of a gifted, though immature, tone poet, and full of a promise that the future was to amply fulfil. The title and dedication of the work are interesting, and both indicate its link with the English dramatic world. The performance of the English Shakespearian actors, Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, inspired MacDowell whilst in London in 1884, on his honeymoon trip with Mrs. MacDowell.