Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2008 by Fred Flaxman


Program 134
"Even More Melodious MacDowell"


MUSIC: MacDowell: opening of Polonaise, from Twelve Virtuoso Studies, Op. 46 performed by James Barbagallo, piano [Naxos 8.559019, track 25] [under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and this is the third hour that I am devoting to the music of the Romantic Period American composer Edward MacDowell. We’ll listen to his unjustly neglected but beautiful Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 50, the “Eroica;” followed by the final movement from his Sonata No. 4, Op. 59, the “Keltic;” three pieces from his four Forgotten Fairy Tales, Op. 4; and eight of his Twelve Virtuoso Studies, Op. 46. An hour of gorgeous piano music is in store for you!

MUSIC: fades out

MacDowell, who lived from 1860 until 1908, was a modest man. He said of his Second Piano Sonata: “I only wish the work were better and hope I will live to write something I am really entirely satisfied with.”

Music critic James Huneker had this to say when the sonata appeared in print in November 1895: “Let us doff our hats to this modest man of Boston town. He is a genius, an American genius.” I modestly agree with this assessment and hope you will too when you hear this work as performed by Charles Fierro on a Delos compact disc.

MUSIC: MacDowell: Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 50 (the “Eroica”), performed by Charles Fierro [Delos DE 1019, tracks 1-4] [26:23]

Charles Fierro performed Edward MacDowell’s Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 50, the “Eroica.”

You are listening to “Even More Melodious MacDowell” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]


While we’re in the piano sonata mood, let’s listen to the final movement of Edward MacDowell’s Sonata No. 4, Op. 59, the “Keltic.” Why, you might ask, is it called “The Keltic” sonata? The answer is on the face page of the sonata. MacDowell wrote a poetic motto:

Who minds now Keltic tales of yore,
Dark Druid rhymes that thrall;
Deirdre’s song, and wizard lore
Of great Cuchullin’s fall.

However, at the time of publication, MacDowell wrote that this verse did not entirely fit the music. “The music,” he said, “is more a commentary on the subject than an actual depiction of it.”

Whether there is anything in this music that sounds Keltic or not, I think the final movement is particularly beautiful. Let’s listen to it now as played by James Barbagallo, who will be our pianist for the rest of this hour. This is from a Naxos recording.

MUSIC: MacDowell: Sonata No. 4, Op. 59 (“Keltic”), Third Movement, performed by pianist James Barbagallo [Naxos 8.559019, track 3] [4:38]

The final movement from Edward MacDowell’s Piano Sonata No. 4, Op. 59, the "Keltic,” performed by the American pianist James Barbagallo.

You are listening to “Even More Melodious MacDowell” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

MacDowell was a great lover of fairy-tales and folklore, so it is no surprise that he would be inspired by them to write a suite of four piano pieces called Forgotten Fairy Tales. We’ll hear three of them now: “Of a Tailor and a Bear,” “Beauty in the Rose-Garden,” and “From Dwarf-land.”

Of a Tailor and a Bear is a musical portrayal of an old folk-tale of a tailor, who was such a lover of music that he always kept his violin beside him as he worked. One day as he was busily working, he heard a great commotion on the street, and suddenly a big bear appeared in his doorway. Although he was very frightened, the tailor remembered that bears love music, so he began to play... and the bear began to dance.

MUSIC: MacDowell: the last three of four Forgotten Fairy Tales, Op. 4, performed by pianist James Barbagallo [Naxos 8.559019, tracks 5, 6 and 7]

Three pieces from Edward MacDowell’s Forgotten Fairy Tales, performed by pianist James Barbagallo.

MacDowell’s Twelve Virtuoso Etudes or Studies, Opus 46, was published in 1894. Once again, MacDowell’s own modest comments on this set of piano pieces was wrong. He wrote to a friend: “You won’t like them, and probably no one will... They are too strange, too dissonant.”

Well, I, for one, don’t find them strange or dissonant, and I doubt that you will either. But I only have time for six of them now: Novelette, Moto Perpetuo, Wild Chase, Elfin Dance, Burlesque, and Polonaise. Once again our pianist is James Barbagallo and our recording is Volume 3 of MacDowell’s piano music on the Naxos label.

MUSIC: MacDowell: from Twelve Virtuoso Studies: Novelette, Moto Perpetuo, Wild Chase, Elfin Dance, Burlesque, Polonaise performed by James Barbagallo, piano [Naxos 8.559019]

Six of Edward MacDowell’s 12 Virtuoso Studies, Op. 46, performed by James Barbagallo.

That brings this hour of “Even More Melodious MacDowell” on Compact Discoveries to a close. I hope you have enjoyed this music as much as I do. If so, and if you have missed the two previous hours devoted to MacDowell’s melodious music, you can stream them on demand at your convenience. They are programs 132 and 133. This is program 134. You’ll find links to listen to almost all Compact Discoveries programs at the Compact Discoveries web site: www.compactdiscoveries.com. This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for listening.

MUSIC: MacDowell: opening of Polonaise, from Twelve Virtuoso Studies, Op. 46 performed by James Barbagallo, piano [Naxos 8.559019, track 25]

This Compact Discoveries program is a presentation of WPVM, Asheville, North Carolina, a broadcast service of the Mountain Area Information Network.

ANNOUNCER [Steve Jencks]:
Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Books, publishers of The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor, selected and edited by Fred Flaxman. Samples and ordering available at bretnor dot com, b-r-e-t-n-o-r dot com.

Program Ends at 57:55

 
  ©2007 Compact Discoveries