Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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EDWARD MACDOWELL (1860--1908) Piano Music Vol. 3   James Barbagallo (piano) recorded August 1994 NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS NAXOS 8.559019 [64:56]
Amazon list Volume 1 Volume 2  Volume 4 but not 3
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Sonata No. 4 Keltic ((1901) Forgotten Fairy Tales ((1897) Six Heine Poems (1887) Twelve Virtuoso Studies (1894)

The grandissimo Keltic Sonata’s flourishes strike up and down the scale. Heroically impressive in Brahmsian dress its grandeur is diffused by a spoonful or two of sentimentality in the middle movement but the finale is resplendently resounding. The whole is well worth hearing but neither especially Celtic nor distinctively American in any way I can detect.

The Forgotten Fairy Tales sound from the title to be a Medtnerian sequence. Far from it. these are accomplished, charming, non-threatening and ultimately tame children’s stories. Yes, all charm, but done in aristocratic style. A Victorian Disney approach to fairytales that are often darker and more dangerous than they are given credit for.

The six pieces in the Heine set are poetically Brahmsian often radiating antique joy. The Postwaggon borrows some Rossinian mountain pastoralism from Guglielmo Tell. The Shepherd Boy reminded me fleetingly of Saint-Saens’ (2nd piano concerto).

The Twelve Virtuoso Studies are remarkable for their lively spirit. There is a demented butterfly of a Moto Perpetuo, a Mendelssohnian Wilde Jagd, the starry flight of Elfentanz and the cool Brahmsian fever of Märzwind. The Impromptu is much indebted to Chopin and the final Polonaise melds elements of Chopin with some watery pre-echoes of Medtner in the grand manner.

The cover art uses a landscape painting by Washington Allston as does volume 4. The notes are by the Ledins who are the American Classics Series producers and consultants to Naxos.

Recommended in the same spirit as the recommendation for Volume 4. I look forward to hearing the earlier volumes.



Rob Barnett


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