Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

EDWARD MACDOWELL (1860-1908) Piano Music Vol. 1 James Barbagallo (piano)  rec 14-18 May 1993, Novato, California NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559010 [63.49]

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Woodland Sketches
Sea Pieces
Fireside Tales
New England Idylls

Barbagallo, now sadly passed away, was a man with a mission. Perhaps rather like John Ogdon he delighted in supporting the neglected and worthwhile. Many others have turned their back on Macdowell's 'simple charms' and consigned him to what used to be a common fixture in every middle class house: the piano stool.

His music is from the same firmament as Grieg and Schumann: a gentle romance hangs over his music only buffeted with rougher winds in the sonatas. The present collection avoids those cooler climes and concentrates on 34 character pieces - all in just over an hour.

Charm, lyricism, reticence, honesty, and inspired affection are the hallmarks of a Macdowell sketch. Some of the titles may remind us of Medtner but the language is simpler. If the salon suggests itself as you listen to these slender morsels it is at least a salon of higher aspiration rather than one of maudlin narrow horizons.

The performances are bred of respect and affection in equal measure. The Haunted House might be an opportunity for goblins of the psyche but if it is darker than the rest it is only by the subtlest shading. There is a brittle brightness in the final track Joy of Autumn. Sinding's rustling leaves are perhaps not that far off but closer yet is the slender romance of Grieg's Last Spring in this collection of drift and unpretentious romance.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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