4. The last movement represents the passing of Arthur. It is strikingly suggestive of the closing days of the Arthurian drama, the tragic note being often impressively struck, although not so definitely as in the Sonata Tragica. The import of the movement is satisfying to those who believe that the days of romance and chivalry closed with the fall of Arthur and his knights, despite the attempts in the Middle Ages to revive the past. The movement as a whole is physically exhausting, except to the very strong. The great climax arrives some way before the end of the work, the music seeming gradually to ebb away after it as though it were but recounting the last scenes of Arthur’s death. The two final pages sadly recall the opening theme of the first movement, typifying the coming of Arthur. The coda is of moving tenderness, indicating the tragedy of Guinevere. A final and elevated outburst is heard and then the sonata ends with a prolonged chord. Altogether there is something very noble and beautiful about this sonata, from which the magnificence and surpassing power and beauty of the two later ones do not detract.
OPUS 51. WOODLAND SKETCHES, FOR PIANOFORTE.
First Published, 1896 (P.L. Jung. Assigned, 1899 to Arthur P. Schmidt).
1. To a Wild Rose.
2. Will o’ the Wisp.
3. At an Old Trysting-place.
4. In Autumn.
5. From an Indian Lodge.
6. To a Water-lily.
7. From Uncle Remus.
8. A Deserted Farm.
9. By a Meadow Brook.
10. Told at Sunset.
These widely known pieces were composed during the last part of MacDowell’s residence at Boston, just before he left for New York to take up his duties as professor of music at Columbia University. In these Woodland Sketches we come for the first time to the point at which his pianoforte poems are absolutely responsive to elemental moods, unaffected in style and yet distinguished, free from commonplace, speaking with a personal note that is inimitable. They are, as a whole, mature Nature poems of an exquisite and charming order, beautiful not only for their outward manifestations, but for the deeper significance they give to their sources of inspiration.
1. To a Wild Rose (with simple tenderness). This is one of the most charming and well known of MacDowell’s small pieces. It is founded on a simple melody of the Brotherton Indians, and has a poise of the most refined and beautiful order. The composer was always afraid of the less intelligent music lovers “tearing it up by the roots.” A vocal arrangement has been made by Herman Hagedorn, but the words are sickly and commonplace in sentiment, and so unnaturally cramped, that the song is artistically worthless.