The journey in the post-chaise is told fairly graphically in the fourth piece. The music is not very interesting, although its hurried progress suggests the monotony of travel in a rumbling vehicle on a night journey.
The fifth piece is lovely and tender, but not particularly expressive. The last of the set opens with a noble, half-sad melody that is typical of MacDowell. Its agitated middle section provides a good contrast.
Two of the poems were played in orchestral garb for the first time in England at a London Queen’s Hall Promenade Concert on October 3rd, 1916. They were No. 6, Poeme erotique, and No. 2, Scotch Poem.
Composed, Wiesbaden, about 1888. Revised by the Composer, 1906. Copyrighted 1894 and 1906 (Breitkopf & Haertel).
1. The Eagle.
2. The Brook.
These pieces are, in their revised version, more individual and more worth playing than any of the preceding small pianoforte works by MacDowell. They have his true ring and stamp, although even here not in its most highly-developed form, and they exemplify his already unerring power to create atmospheres of far-reaching significance, even in tiny spaces, for all four poems are but two-page pieces, and the most striking, The Eagle, is but twenty-six bars in length.
1. The Eagle is a tone picture of Tennyson’s lines:—
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls._
The opening high, wind-swept chords; the succeeding softly-breathed, high chromatics, with the deep-voiced bass, creating an atmosphere of the vast loneliness of wild mountain heights; the gradual descent to spell-binding silence and then the startling shriek and swoop down of the eagle—all these are suggested in this tiny piece with unmistakable power. The Eagle is remarkable for its programme music aspect in the light of MacDowell’s later works, for in these it is perfected suggestion and not realism that we find.
2. The Brook is a clever little piece, delicate and refined. It begins with lovable simplicity, which is broken for a time by an expressive and characteristic passage marked sotto voce. The piece as a whole has for its motto Bulwer’s lines:—
Gay below the cowslip bank, see the
There I lay, beguiling time—when I liv’d romances;
Dropping pebbles in the wave, fancies into fancies.