3. Of Salamanders (As delicately as possible). This is a fanciful, intricate piece, but very delicate in effect. It is technically difficult to play, requiring an absolute control of finger work. It was rather a favourite with the composer. 4. A Haunted House (Mysteriously). This is one of the most imaginative and realistic of MacDowell’s smaller pianoforte pieces. It opens very dark and sombre, developing into a wild and eerie fortissimo. The middle section requires swiftness of finger work to suggest the nervous expectancy aroused by the preceding mysteriousness. The ghost-like effect returns, then gradually recedes again into impenetrable gloom.
6. By Smouldering Embers (Musingly). This opens with a quiet, tender theme after the style of An Old Love Story. The piece is quite short, but displays a mastery both of harmony and counterpoint. The music is grave and deep, but very tender. The little middle section stands out in its almost passionate, but sonorous and controlled emotion. Toward the end, the music becomes very moving and subdued, dying away with careful and sensitive tone reduction. The impression left by this piece, and by the Fireside Tales as a whole, is that the composer was conscious of a heavy responsibility in his work; that he felt, as Elgar has explained, that “the creative artist suffers in creating, or in contemplating the unending influence of his creation ... for even the highest ecstacy of ‘Making’ is mixed with the consciousness of the sombre dignity of the eternity of the artist’s responsibility.”
OPUS 62. NEW ENGLAND IDYLS, FOR PIANOFORTE.
First Published, 1902 (Arthur P. Schmidt).
1. An Old Garden.
4. With Sweet Lavender.
5. In Deep Woods.
6. Indian Idyl.
7. To an Old White Pine.
8. From Puritan Days.
9. From a Log Cabin.
10. The Joy of Autumn.
This album is the last work MacDowell published. It contains, not only some of his most beautiful and advanced lyrical tone poems, but, in Mid-Winter and From a Log Cabin, two of the most significant and inspired of all his shorter pieces. In the New England Idyls as a whole, we have the eloquence and poetry of MacDowell in its fullest maturity. The American atmosphere is strong in these pieces, the scene suggested by each one belonging unmistakably to New England. In addition to the expressive and suggestive power of these idyls, they possess a fragrance and freshness that are rare in music. Each piece is headed by a verse of the composer’s, and it should also be noted that he has dropped his English directions as to expression, etc., and gone back to Italian. There is no great gain in this, for the terms he uses, although in the language traditionally employed for the purpose, are by no means always the actual terms of traditional standing; he simply took the unnecessary trouble to translate his English-thought directions into a foreign language. His Italian is not always that generally used in music.