OPUS 58. THREE SONGS, FOR VOICE AND PIANOFORTE.
First Published, 1899 (Arthur P. Schmidt).
1. Constancy (New England, A.D. 1899).
3. Merry Maiden Spring.
The verses of these songs are MacDowell’s own, and both words and music here go to make up song writing of an order that is rare in its beauty of expression, tender thought and pure lyricism.
In Constancy (New England, A.D. 1899), indicated Simply, but with deep feeling, we have one of MacDowell’s best songs. It has a tenderness and wistfulness about it that is irresistible, and sung in the spirit of its words, which tell of an empty house and neglected garden, it is a very beautiful thing.
Sunrise, marked With power and authority, is short and tells of the sorrowful spectacle of a wrecked and broken ship. The actual scene, however, seems secondary to its own significance as a symbol of human life. The music is heavy after the style of certain of the composer’s pianoforte Sea Pieces (Op. 55).
The third and last song, Merry Maiden Spring, is charming, with a singularly bright and captivating freshness. It is indicated to be sung Lightly, gracefully.
OPUS 59. FOURTH SONATA, KELTIC, IN E MINOR, FOR PIANOFORTE.
First Published, 1901 (Arthur P. Schmidt).
Dedicated to Edvard Grieg.
1. With great power and dignity.
2. With naive tenderness.
3. Very swift and fierce.
The Keltic Sonata is generally considered MacDowell’s supreme achievement, the great culmination of his evolution toward musical expression of immense and rare power. The sonata is a work of great breadth and vitality, and has a sweep of line and noble beauty of expression that is only equalled in the supreme efforts of genius, such as Beethoven’s Appassionata sonata for instance. It is a most superb poetical romance, full of the passion and heroic fervour of the Celtic strain in MacDowell’s own nature. It searched out his finest and deepest inspiration when he wrote it and it grew to be part of his very being afterwards. The whole thing is a reflection of the heroic and stirring romances in Celtic legend. It is full of a wild beauty and sorrow, and carries us back to those far-off days when men lived the lives that now to us seem mythical. The graduations of tone in the sonata range from pppp to ffff, and although its technical difficulties are considerable, they are worth conquering, which is more than can be said of many things over which the modern pianist takes infinite pains. The virtuoso aspect of the Keltic sonata, however, is always lost in the magnificent spirit of the music. All MacDowell’s finest works require not mechanical technique only, but deep intellectual and poetical thought to bring out their finest qualities.