Monday, December 29, 2008

MacDowell, the romantic American

As so many other interesting composers, Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) is doomed to be remembered mainly by one composition: the piano piece To a wild rose. It's a pity, because his oeuvre, although conventionally romantic, is well worth exploring. This Naxos CD is a good introduction to his orchestral output. The first suite (1893) is in five parts and explores a fairytale like world, with some musical links to the likes of Liszt and Wagner. The second suite (1897), named the Indian, is perhaps the more interesting of the two. It depicts scenes from the American Indian life, with some musical themes taking from their cultural heritage. To complete the CD, we have his early tone poem Hamlet and Ophelia (1885), an intriguing combination of two musical character studies, the more dramatic Hamlet and the melancholic Ophelia. The performances by the Ulster Orchestra under Takuo Yuasa are fine, and so is the recording quality. Give this a try if you like late romantic composers such as Bruch and Raff.

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