MacDowell, Edward


MacDowell, Edward

Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor Op. 23 (Piano Reduction for 2 pianos, 2 copies)

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MacDowell, Edward

Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor Op. 23 (Piano Reduction for 2 pianos, 2 copies)

Preface to the full score:

Edward MacDowell was perhaps the most prominent American composer and pianist of the latter half of the 19th century. In many respects, MacDowell was viewed as the great hope of American music, a sobriquet he largely eschewed, preferring not to be known as an «American» composer, but as a composer who happened to be American. Displaying great musical abilities at an early age, MacDowell’s formal piano instruction began in his home town of New York City at the age of eight with a succession of Latin American musicians: the Colombian Juan Buitrago, the Venezuelan Teresa Carreño (1853-1917), and the Cuban Pablo Desvernine (1823-1910). In 1876, MacDowell and his mother moved to Paris where he studied at the Conservatoire with Antoine-François Marmontel (1816-1898) on piano and Augustin Savard (1814-1881) on theory. MacDowell moved from Paris to Germany in 1878, first studying piano with Siegmund Lebert (1822-1884) at the Stuttgart Conservatory, then with Carl Heymann and Louis Ehlert (1825-1884) in Wiesbaden before following Heymann to the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt in 1879. At Frankfurt, MacDowell also studied composition with Joachim Raff (1822-1882) and Franz Böhme.

Franz Liszt heard MacDowell in recital on three separate occasions in the years 1879 and 1880 and was extremely impressed with the young American’s piano playing. During the next several years Liszt gave invaluable support to MacDowell’s compositional efforts and arranged to have a number of his works performed at prominent musical festivals. MacDowell was appointed professor of piano at the Darmstadt Conservatory in 1881, a position he resigned after a year to devote himself to composition. MacDowell remained in Germany until 1888, at which time he returned to the United States to begin a highly successful career in Boston as piano soloist and composer. In 1896 MacDowell was appointed as the first professor in the newly formed Department of Music at Columbia University, a position that made him one of the most prominent music educators in the United States. MacDowell had great success at Columbia during his first years, but after a change in university administration, found his efforts undermined by Columbia’s new president, Nicholas Murray Butler (1862-1947), an educationist who wanted to subsume the Department of Music within Columbia’s Teachers College. Already in ill health due to having been run over by a hansom cab in March of 1904, MacDowell resigned his Columbia professorship and spent the remaining four years of his life suffering from paralysis and various forms of mental debilitation. MacDowell’s summer home in Peterborough, New Hampshire was turned into an artists’ colony after his death and has nurtured the talents of many of America’s finest composers of the past century.
There is very little of an innovative nature to MacDowell’s music. A miniaturist by inclination, MacDowell composed infrequently in the symphonic and concerto formats. There is also very little that can be deemed as American in his music. Stylistically, MacDowell was heavily indebted to the German romantics, and one can see the clear influences of his teacher Raff, Liszt, Grieg, and to a lesser extent, Brahms and Wagner. This is not to denigrate MacDowell’s music, because in the second half of the 19th century musical composition in the United States was largely a German affair. Virtually all prominent 19th century American musicians and composers received advanced training in Germany. Additionally, the vast majority of American orchestral musicians and conductors at the time were recent German immigrants or expatriates.

MacDowell’s mastery of the German Romantic style is seen to greatest effect in his Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra. The work was composed during the years 1884-1886 when MacDowell was living in Wiesbaden, Germany. The first public performance of the work took place in Chicago at the Exhibition Building in July of 1888 with Teresa Carreño, MacDowell’s former teacher and a tireless champion of his works, performing the solo part with Theodore Thomas (1835-1905) conducting the orchestra. MacDowell performed the solo honors himself during the New York premiere, which occurred on 5 March 1889 at Chickering Hall, again with Thomas conducting. Another very notable performance of the work by the composer took place on 14 December 1894 with the New York Philharmonic. Both Carreño and MacDowell performed the work to great acclaim in London on different occasions, the former at the Crystal Palace in 1900 and the latter on 14 December 1903 with the Royal Philharmonic Society.

The first movement, Larghetto calmato, D minor, is a sonata form set in 6/8 meter and displays MacDowell’s penchant for Lombardic rhythms. The major thematic material consists of two four-bar phrases that function in an antecedent/consequential manner. In the exposition these two phrases are roughly divided between the tonic and mediant sections. The relatively brief recapitulation is highlighted by a return to the tonic major.

In the second movement, Presto giocoso, Bb major, MacDowell deftly utilizes the sonata rondo form. He combines new thematic material with a secondary theme that is taken from the first movement, thereby adding cyclic unity to the composition. The cyclical idea is again taken up by the composer in the third and final movement, Largo—Molto allegro, which combines elements of both sonata and sonata rondo forms. After a slow introduction in D minor the movement stays in the parallel major throughout.

MacDowell’s mastery of sonata form as exemplified in this concerto belies the contention that his interest in musical miniatures was the result of a lack of formal competence. Indeed, in the passage below taken from one of his lectures during his years at Columbia University, MacDowell remarks about the limitations of the form: «We put our guest, the poetic thought, that comes to us like a homing bird from out the mystery of the blue sky—we put this confiding stranger straightway into that iron bed, the «sonata form,» or perhaps even the third rondo form, for we have quite an assortment. Should the idea survive and grow too large for the bed, and if we have learned to love it too much to cut off its feet and thus make it fit (as did that old robber of Attica), why we run the risk of having some critic wise in his theoretical knowledge, say, as was and is said of Chopin, «He is weak in sonata form!»

Such remarks lead one to believe that MacDowell may not have been as musically conservative as is generally thought to be the case. Although it is unlikely that he would have explored anything like the type of musical radicalism created by his near contemporary Charles Ives (1874-1954), his premature death at the age of 48 deprived America and the musical world of an important link between Romanticism and Modernism, as well as that between the «Old» World and the «New.»

William Grim, 2005

For performance material please contact the publisher Benjamin Musikverlage, Hamburg. Reprint of a copy from theMusikabteilung der Leipziger Städtischen Bibliotheken, Leipzig.


Deutsches Vorwort zur Partitur lesen > HERE

Score No.






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