Etude de Concert, Second Modern suite, Serenata, Two Fantasy
Pieces, Twelve Etudes
Perhaps because his piano music was taken to the heart
of so many players and straight into their piano stools Macdowell
has had a reputation as a peddler of charming miniatures written to
skill levels attainable by many domestic players in the period 1880-1920.
As this disc demonstrates emphatically his music is worth much more.
He is at least as adept and fresh as Grieg and Saint-Saens at their
Etude de Concert (1889) storms with Lisztian
bravura and Barbagallo is sheerly wonderful. The playful and varied
exuberance of the Second Modern Suite is well illustrated by
its final Phantasie-Tanz. Macdowell is a composer of great
eloquence and no arrogance. In some of his pieces he aspired toward
Celtic regions but it required a wilder palette than his to mine that
area deeply. After the brief charm of the Serenata we get two
meaty phantasy pieces the first of which is an item of the sheerest
loveliness and its partner is worthy of Saint-Saens - all wedding
cake icing. This Hexentanz has no horror - being more Mendelssohnian.
The final sequence of Twelve Virtuoso Studies are brilliant
with an outstanding Hunting Song and Tarantella. The
wild Dance Of The Gnomes is a veritable whirlwind. There is
a great deal of enlivening quick music on this disc and both the anthology
and the Etudes end with a Hungarian presto. Vivid music
making for Macdowell fanciers or for those who are curious and who
already warm to Liszt and Saint-Saens.
I have no criticism of the playing which is presented
with the secure passion of a great player who cares about the music
he is advocating. What a tragedy that Barbagallo died before he could
complete the Macdowell cycle of sonatas. As it is he left us with
only No. 4 (which is reviewed separately)
Notes (English only) by Victor and Marina A Ledin. These are beyond