Date of Degree
Sherman Van Solkema
H. Wiley Hitchcock
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) was thought by many to be America's leading composer. His fame rested on his personal appearances, performances of his orchestral suites, piano concertos, and other piano works, as well as his teaching position at Columbia. This study presents a style analysis of the complete body of short piano works (160), including the unpublished juvenilia (32 compositions) and those works published under the pseudonym of Edgar Thorn (13 compositions).
MacDowell's published short piano compositions consist of 115 pieces in 19 sets, composed over the period 1880-1902. These pieces constitute a significant contribution to the repertoire of the short piano piece during the last decades of the nineteenth century and compare favorably with any short piano pieces written during that time. Three style periods have been distinguished: Early Works (1880-87), First Maturity (1887-96), and Final Works (1896-1902).
This study attempts to answer some basic questions about MacDowell and his music, demonstrating, in particular, a considerable style development between Op. 10 and Op. 62. The evolution of MacDowell's style is also observed through study of the major revisions which he made for American editions of works originally published in Europe. Style development is measured in discussions of the range, scope, and degree of variety in this body of piano music, and by assessing the nature of MacDowell's contribution to the literature of the Romantic short piano piece. Apart from the student compositions of his earliest student days in Paris, MacDowell's works are character pieces in the tradition of Schumann, Liszt, Raff, the "New German" school of the second half of the nineteenth century, and there is tangible evidence for the acquaintance with Richard Wagner's works. The influence of Grieg proves to be less significant than formerly thought. After a protracted period of retransition to America and a partial embrace of its cultural heritage, MacDowell in his late works writes expressive pieces of great individuality and personal stamp, even though his language was not particularly progressive. Motivic material drawn from Indian sources appears on occasion.
Brancaleone, Francis Paul, "The Short Piano Works of Edward MacDowell" (1982). CUNY Academic Works.