Dance of the Gnomes (Prestissimo confuoco), the last study of Book I, is another piece of imperfectly realised suggestive tone poetry. It is difficult to play, requiring great crispness of finger action combined with perfect control of tone volume.
Idyl (Allegretto) is No. I of Book II, and has a certain charm and lyrical beauty, although not one of the composer’s best efforts. It is a study for the cultivation of delicacy, singing tone and grace.
Shadow Dance (Allegrissimo) has just that touch of fanciful romanticism that MacDowell knew how to infuse into a piece, thus heightening its interest. The piece is one of the most popular of MacDowell’s shorter pieces and makes a fine solo. From a technical point of view, it is a valuable study for development of finger agility combined with lightness of touch.
Intermezzo (Allegretto) is tuneful and pleasing, but does not reach a very high level of poetic writing. It is, however, a useful exercise for development of independent action of the two middle fingers of the hand.
Melodie (Andantino) is a melodious exercise for cultivating independence of fingers.
Scherzino (Allegro) is a tuneful study for double note playing with the right hand.
Hungarian (Presto con fuoco) has the characteristic fire and syncopated rhythm of a Brahms’ Hungarian Dance, and is a study for the development of dash, speed and virtuoso playing.
Composed, 1890. First Published, 1890 (Arthur P. Schmidt).
1. Sweet Blue-Eyed Maid.
2. Sweetheart, Tell Me.
3. Thy Beaming Eyes.
4. For Sweet Love’s Sake.
5. O Lovely Rose.
6. I Ask But This.
These songs, although not absolutely of the composer’s best, have a charm, tenderness of feeling and beauty of expression that is often irresistible. They are essentially the love songs of a romantic, but refined and gifted poet. As a whole they are singularly free from sexual sensuousness, which is so often a trait in songs of their type. There is an idealism, wonderfully fresh and pure, about them, that is antagonistic to the composer’s own assertion that verse often becomes doggerel when harnessed to music in song form.
Sweet Blue-Eyed Maid. (Daintily, not too sentimentally.) The spirit of this song is happy and it is beautifully, although simply, expressed.
Sweetheart, Tell Me. (Softly, tenderly.) The ability of MacDowell to suggest a definite mood in music is clearly demonstrated in this song, which has a simple melody of wonderful appeal and tenderness.
Thy Beaming Eyes. (With sentiment, passionately.) This is the most widely known of all MacDowell’s songs. The composer himself thought it too sentimental and was not pleased with the popularity it gained. There is no mistaking its passionate feeling, however, and it strikes the human note frankly and spontaneously, without becoming commonplace. The song is at least sincere, and its popularity can do no harm to its composer’s deeper music, which is less easily understood.