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Portrait of E. MacDowell
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America's first internationally recognized composer, Edward MacDowell was born into a Quaker family of Scottish descent on December 18, 1861.

As a child he studied piano before going abroad in 1876 to Paris, then on to Germany, where he found a sympathetic spiritual home. Like his compatriots Paine, Chadwick, Griffes, and Farwell, who also made the German pilgrimage. MacDowell immersed himself in not only advanced counterpoint and harmony, but also in the entire Romantic ethos. Imbibing from the stream of German folklore, poring over the great Romantic writers from Goethe and Schiller to Heine, Geibel, and Lenau, and listening to the music of Brahms, Wagner, and Liszt, Schumann and Wolf, MacDowell endeavored to compose symphonic and vocal works in the European mode. His early German songs OPUS 11 & 12 hold their own next to those by his European contemporaries. So, too, does his FIRST PIANO CONCERTO (1885), which won him praise from none other than Franz Liszt, for whom he played it at Weimar and which continued to gain him recognition when he performed it with the Boston Symphony upon his return to the States in 1887.

Listen to "In The Woods" in the Songbook

For the next eighteen years MacDowell built a career as a respected teacher and composer. His symphonic music resonates with poetical suggestion, often uses programmatic titles to evoke moods, and displays an affinity for folk-based elements, among them an interest in Native American melody. The forty-two solo songs with which he endowed the repertoire demonstrate a passion not only for the German Romantics, but also for the texts of his Scots precursor Robert Burns and for the English and French Romantics. In 1895 MacDowell founded an artistic colony in Peterborough, NH, which remains today a mecca for artists seeking a stimulating and reflective environment for creative work.

MacDowell Texts in German and in English

W. H. Howells

One sails away to sea, to sea,
One stands on the shore and cries;
The ship goes down the world, and the light
On the sullen water dies.

The whispering shell is mute,
And after is evil cheer;
She shall stand on the shore and cry in vain,
Many and many a year.

But the stately wide-winged ship lies wrecked,
Lies wrecked on the unknown deep;
Far under, dead in his coral bed,
The lover lies asleep.

Friedrich Klopstock

Im Frühlingsschatten fand ich sie,
Da band ich sie mit Rosenbändern,
Sie fühlt' es nicht und schlummerte.

Ich sah sie an, mein Leben hing
Mit diesem Blick an ihrem Leben:
Ich fühlt' es wohl und wusst' es nicht.

Doch lispelt ich ihr sprachlos zu
Und rauschte mit den Rosenbändern:
Da wachte sie vom Schlummer auf.

Sie sah mich an, ihr Leben hing
Mit diesem Blick an meinem Leben:
Und um uns ward's Elysium.

In Springtime's shadows I found her,
And bound her fast with bands of roses,
She felt them not and slumbered on.

I gazed on her, my life hung
With this sole look, on her existence:
I felt it well, but knew it not.

Then wordlessly I spoke to her
And made the garlands rustle:
It roused her from her sleep.

She gazed at me, her life hung
With this sole look on my existence:
And thenceforth we were in Elysium.

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