About this Recording
8.559032 - MACDOWELL: Songs (Complete)

Edward MacDowell (1860 -1908)

Edward MacDowell (1860 -1908)

Complete Songs


Edward MacDowell, one of America's most distinguished composers, was born in New York City on 18th December, 1860. Though he was not a prodigy, he soon showed remarkable musical gifts, especially at the keyboard. He began having piano lessons at the age of eight and later studied with Teresa Carreno, one of the greatest pianists of the century. When he was fourteen, his mother took him to Paris, where he studied the piano privately with Marmontel and was enrolled in the Conservatoire, where his fellow-pupils included Claude Debussy.


MacDowell continued his studies in Germany, first at Stuttgart and then at

Frankfurt, where he was a pupil of the composer Joachim Raff, who became his friend and one of the strongest influences on his musical development. At Rafrs suggestion, MacDowell visited Liszt in Weimar in 1882 and performed his First

Piano Concerto, which he had dedicated to Liszt. The old man was delighted, and praised his visitor's outstanding pianistic ability. MacDowell's name soon became known in European musical circles and the sphere of his activity widened. The death of Raff in the summer of 1882 was a sad blow, and for the next two years he led a quiet life, devoting himself mainly to composition.


After many productive years in Europe, the composer returned to America in 1888 together with his wife, Marian Griswold Nevins, who had been one of his American pupils in Germany. They settled in Boston, where he taught, composed and gave concerts. In 1896 he became the first Professor of Music at Columbia University, New York City, where he was active until early in 1904. He continued to compose and teach and conducted the Mendelssohn Glee Club, but in 1905 he became incapacitated by a cerebral disease which finally caused his death on 23rd January, 1908.


MacDowell's works include symphonic poems and orchestral suites, songs for voice and chorus, two piano concertos, and many solo piano works, including four sonatas, studies, suites, shorter pieces and transcriptions.


The estate which MacDowel1 bought in Peterborough, New Hampshire, is today an artist colony (in fulfilment of one of his fondest dreams), where talented artists from many fields work throughout the day in quiet and charming surroundings, unhampered by the disturbances of city life. Some 250 MacDowel1

Clubs have been organized allover the country to encourage music in their own communities and to give help to the MacDowel1 Colony, whose members have included Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Norman Dello Joio, Lukas Foss, Roy

Harris, Gail Kubik, Douglas Moore, Gardner Read, Louise Talma and Virgil



This is the first complete recording of MacDowell's art songs. Between 1883 and 1902 he composed a total of 42 songs, which were, however, published out of chronological sequence. The earliest in opus number, the Two Old Songs, Opus 9, were actually the eighth group of songs MacDowel1 wrote. If we examine

MacDowell's songs in their order of composition, we notice a marked change in technical style. The earliest, dating from 1883, are full and opulent, but he soon began cutting back the piano score to the merest background for the vocal line.


The earliest songs were composed in 1883 and published as Opp. 11 and 12 by C.F. Kahnt in Leipzig. In 1898 Breitkopf & Hartel reprinted the five songs as one set. Heinrich Heine is the author of the poems for Du liebst mich nicht (You Love me Not), Oben, wo die Sterne gluhen (The Skies, where Stars are Glowing) and Mein LiebGhen (My Love and I sat Close Together). The texts for the two songs of Opus 12 are by Emanuel Geibel and Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. MacDowel1 was still very much under the influence of Raff and these five early songs are fairly Germanic in both style and beauty and some biographers have even compared them stylistically to early Richard Strauss.


In From an Old Garden, composed in 1887, he used lyrics by Margaret Wade

Deland (1857-1945). Best known for her Old Chester Tales (1899), Deland began her career as a poet. Her first published book, The Old Garden (1886) impressed MacDowell, and the six poems he selected from her collection became his Opus 26.

Like MacDowell, Deland was a lifelong nature-lover, with a passion for gardening.

This kinship between composer and poet is plainly evident in these sensitive songs.


MacDowell completed another five songs in 1888, publishing both collections in 1889 as his Opp. 33 and 34. For the texts of the Drei Lieder, he chose a poem by Ch. Glucklich, Latin words from an old German print of the Virgin, and a poem by the great poet Goethe. The Goethe song is particularly distinctive, with its dainty staccato accompaniment against a sustained cantilena in the voice. The Two Songs, Opus 34 employ poems by Robert Burns. Menie is to be performed Sadly, despondently, while MacDowell directs My Jean, to be sung Unaffectedly, tenderly.


These are chronologically followed by the Six Love Songs, Opus 40, settings of verses by W.H. Gardner published in Boston in 1890. As an opus, and individually, these were among MacDowell's most popular compositions. The simplicity of the accompaniments, along with the sentimentality of the texts proved to be winning combinations. In the Eight Songs, Opus 47; published by Breitkopf & Hartel in 1893, we encounter two of MacDowell's best known songs, Midsummer Lullaby and The Sea. Here he used three of his own poems, two by Goethe, and three by William Dean Howells. Here we encounter a mature MacDowell, following his credo: "A song, if at all dramatic, should have climax, form, and plot, as does a play. Words to me seem so paramount and, as it were, apart in value from the musical setting, that, while I cannot recall the melodies of many of the songs that I have written, the words of them are so indelibly impressed upon my mind that they are very easy to recall... Music and poetry cannot be accurately stated unless one has written both."


Although published as Opus 9, the Two Old Songs were composed and published in 1894. Deserted, to lyrics by Robert Burns, has the barest accompaniment, underscoring the pathos MacDowel1 was feeling in the words. MacDowel1 does not credit the author of Slumber Song (perhaps the text was his own), however, the piano writing is vintage MacDowell, typical of his late piano pieces with images of falling snow and smouldering pine logs.


The Four Songs, Opus 56, were written to his own texts and published in New York in 1898. Here, MacDowel1 provides rich, expressive melodic lines for his poems, stating that "...the paramount value of the poem is its suggestion in the field of instrumental music, where a single line may be elaborated upon... To me, in this respect, the poem holds its highest value of suggestion..."


The Three Songs, Opus 58 (1899) and the Three Songs, Opus 60 (1902) contain some of MacDowell's best lines and beautifully demonstrate the conciseness of his musical thought.




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