Born: New York, New York, 18 December 1860
Died: New York, New York, 23 January 1908
Edward Alexander MacDowell was a composer known mostly for his piano works, especially these suites: Woodland Sketches, Sea Pieces, and New England Idyls.
His most famous piano piece was "To A Wild Rose" from Woodland Sketches.
He also composed a large number of songs and a few orchestral works, including two piano concertos (the First in 1885/ the Second in 1890) and two orchestral suites. His Suite No. 2, subtitled ("Indian"), was based on themes from American Indian tribes and evoking their life, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896, and said to be MacDowell's personal favorite work. It is deservedly in need of more attention since it is his best orchestral work.
In the year of his death, his widow Marion Nevins MacDowell, had published a collection of her husband's short poems, under the title:
Verses by Edward MacDowell
(Arthur P. Schmidt, 1908)
At the back of this small book is an Index which indicates which poems were written for each of MacDowell's works. Here are several short poems written for his New England Idyls piano suite:
In Deep Woods
Above, long slender shafts of opal flame,
Below, the dim cathedral aisles;
The mystery of immortal things
Broods o'er the woods at eve.
Alone by the wayward flame
She weaves broad wampum skeins
While afar through the summer night
Sigh the wooing flutes' soft strains.
Edward MacDowell was a composer of significant talent and melodic gifts.
He represented a time during the late 19th century when American composers were still based mainly on Germanic models.
Though hardly an innovator, like Charles Ives, Edward MacDowell deserves to be remembered for his appealing programatic music of great sensitivity.
His love of nature is echoed in much of his music and also in the last poem of his collection:
The Joy of Autumn
From hill-top to vale,
Through meadow and dale,
Young Autumn doth wake the world;
And naught shall avail,
But our souls shall sail
With the flag of life unfurled.
Edward MacDowell was a superior Late Romantic tone poet.
--Roger Lee Hall, September 2010