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Penguin Guide, January 2009

McDowell may have been a musical conservative but, in spite of the European flavour of his music, he thought himself a true ‘American’ composer—favouring the influences of ‘the manly and free rudeness of the American Indian’ rather than jazz, which thought had too strong an eastern European, Bohemian inheritance.

The Indian Suite opens with a dramatic horn and its first movement (Legend) is a grandiose evocation of the ‘once-great past of a dying race’ and draws on folk themes from the Iowas and Kiowas. The closing Village Festival expands energetically in the brass, finally returning to the mood of the opening movement.

The First Suite (actually the second in order of composition) is a comparable series of genre evocations, and the suite ends with a winning dance from the Forest Spirits.

The brooding atmosphere of the portrait of Hamlet and Ophelia soon gives way to melodrama in the manner of a Lisztian symphonic poem. The music has a rich lyrical strain and later a doom-laden ambience; although it is Ophelia rather than Hamlet who dominates the touchingly lyrical close. The performances here are outstanding in every way, full of colour, warmth and vitality, and the recording is state-of-the-art.



Joseph Horowitz
The New York Times, July 2001

"The composer most represented on American Classics is the American most acclaimed a century ago, Edward MacDowell. The late James Barbagallo contributes four volumes of solo piano music; the tenor Steven Tharp and Mr. Barbagallo perform the complete songs; Stephen Prutsman offers both piano concertos, with Arthur Fagen and the National Orchestra of Ireland; and Takuo Yuasa conducts the Ulster Orchestra in the two orchestral suites. ...Mr. Yuasa's empathetic rendition of the Dirge from the once popular 'Indian' Suite (1892) - music MacDowell considered his most affecting - makes a stronger case than any other performance I've encountered."



William Littler
Toronto Star, June 2001

"There was a time when short piano pieces such as To A Wild Rose virtually guaranteed Edward MacDowell (1860 - 1908) welcome in parlours of North America; indeed, because of his manifold talents he was almost the Leonard Bernstein of his day. But like that other American Romantic, John Alden Carpenter, MacDowell has suffered neglect in the wake of changing musical fashion. Congratulations to Naxos for including both men in its admirable American Classics series and for offering the Ulster Orchestra of Belfast and its principal guest conductor Takuo Yuasa the opportunity to record three of MacDowell's most attractive orchestral scores. Hamlet and Ophelia was MacDowell's earliest tone poem. It joins the Orchestral Suites Nos. 1 & 2 in demonstrating that MacDowell was capable of writing considerably more than piano miniatures."



Haller
American Record Guide, June 2001

"Given Yuasa's treatment of the two suites and the low Naxos price, if you already know MacDowell's Piano Concertos and want to hear more, this is the one to get."



Robert Cummings
Classical Net, June 2001

"How do a Japanese conductor and an Irish orchestra cope with this American music? The answer is: quite well. The playing is secure and the interpretations are level-headed...At any rate, this recording eclipses the ones that were current in the 1950s, so don't hesitate if you are curious about MacDowell."



Richard Ginell
Los Angeles Times, April 2001

"Ever since the unofficial edict that American music ought to sound American, Edward MacDowell has been out of fashion, scorned as too Germanic, too derivative. Yet, Naxos' enterprising American Classics Series cares not what fashion dictates - and at Naxos' super-bargain price, these discs make great entryway into MacDowell's earnestly appealing orchestral music...One can live very nicely with these well played, plushly recorded performances."



Sensible Sound

"The Naxos sound may be commended for its depth of field, its excellent dynamics, and its natural, concert-hall ambiance."






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