Picks and Pans Review: Edward Macdowell: First Modern Suite/sonata No. 4
When MacDowell was born in New York in 1860, the prevalent call was "Go West, young man." But at 16, MacDowell turned East, to study piano at the Paris Conservatory. After moving to Germany for further study and a teaching position, the young pianist began to compose seriously, and his work was praised by Franz Liszt. Later, when MacDowell returned to New York in 1896 to become the first head of the Department of Music at Columbia University, his duties limited his composition time to summer vacations at his home in Peterborough, N.H. Thanks to Liszt's early support and his own performing ability, MacDowell was widely respected as the leading American composer upon his death in 1908. Yet he was quickly forgotten when modernism took over, and his small, piano-oriented oeuvre wasn't dusted off again until the Bicentennial. Its quality and integrity were obvious. These pieces (the Suite has never before been recorded) are enchanting romantic works reminiscent of Grieg and Liszt. Despite their technical difficulty, Charles Fierro, 43, a specialist in American music, renders them with a delighting ease.