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Edward MacDowell


Edward Alexander MacDowell (December 18, 1860 - January 23, 1908) was an American composer and pianist from the Romantic period, best known for his second piano concerto and his piano suites "Woodland Sketches", "Sea Pieces", and "New England Idylls". "Woodland Sketches" includes his most popular short piece, "To a Wild Rose".


Edward MacDowell was born in New York and received his first piano lessons from Juan Buitrago, a Colombian violinist who was living with the MacDowell family at the time. MacDowell later received lessons from friends of Buitrago, including Teresa Carreño, a Venezuelan pianist. His family later moved to Paris, France, and in 1877 Edward MacDowell was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire. MacDowell then went to the Hoch'sche Conservatory in Frankfurt, Germany to study piano with Carl Heymann and composition with Joachim Raff. When Franz Liszt visited the conservatory in 1879 and attended a recital of student compositions, MacDowell presented some of his own compositions along with a transcription of a Liszt symphonic poem. MacDowell also taught piano at the Darmstadt Conservatory for a year.

In 1884, MacDowell married Marian Griswold Nevins, who had been one of his piano students. About the time that MacDowell composed a piano piece titled "Cradle Song", Marian suffered an illness that left her unable to bear children.

The MacDowells settled first in Frankfurt, then in Wiesbaden. From 1885 to 1888 MacDowell devoted himself almost exclusively to composition. Driven in part by financial difficulties, he decided to return to America in the autumn of 1888.

They lived in Boston until 1896, when MacDowell became professor of music at Columbia University, a position he held until 1904.

Besides his own compositions, which include two piano concertos, two orchestral suites, four symphonic poems, four piano sonatas, piano suites, and songs, MacDowell published dozens of piano transcriptions of mostly 18th century pre-piano keyboard pieces.

From 1896 to 1898, MacDowell published 13 piano pieces and 4 partsongs under the pseudonym of Edgar Thorn. These compositions were not mentioned in Lawrence Gilman's 1909 biography of MacDowell. They were listed without opus numbers in MacDowell's Critical and Historical Essays (1912) and in John F. Porte's Edward MacDowell (1922). They were listed with opus numbers in Oscar Sonneck's Catalogue of First Editions of Edward MacDowell (1917).

In 1904, MacDowell was one of the first seven people chosen for membership in The American Academy of Arts and Letters. The MacDowells envisioned establishing a colony for artistic productions near their summer home in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

After being run over by a Hansom cab in 1904, MacDowell began to lose his mental capacities until he reached the condition described by an eye witness, Lawrence Gilman, in these words: "His mind became as that of a little child. He sat quietly, day after day, in a chair by a window, smiling patiently from time to time at those about him, turning the pages of a book of fairy tales that seemed to give him a definite pleasure, and greeting with a fugitive gleam of recognition certain of his more intimate friends. The Mendelssohn Glee Club, for which he had composed choral music, raised money to help the MacDowells. A public appeal was also launched to raise funds for his care; among the signers were Horatio Parker, Victor Herbert, Arthur Foote, George Whitefield Chadwick, Frederick Converse, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan and former President Grover Cleveland

Edward MacDowell died in 1908 and was buried in the MacDowell Colony, which Marian MacDowell had established in 1907.


The following lists were compiled from information in collections of the sheet music, Lawrence Gilman's Edward MacDowell: A Study (1908), Oscar Sonneck's Catalogue of First Editions of Edward MacDowell (1917), and John F. Porte's Edward MacDowell (1922).

Published compositions for piano, a complete listing

Op. 1 Amourette (1896) by Edgar Thorn

Op. 2 In Lilting Rhythm (1897) by Edgar Thorn - I. Capriciously, yet not slow - II. Not slow, liltingly

Op. 4 Forgotten Fairy Tales (1897) by Edgar Thorn - I. Sung outside the Prince's door - II. Of a Tailor and a Bear - III. Beauty in the Rose-Garden - IV. From Dwarf-land

Op. 7 Six Fancies (1898) by Edgar Thorn - I. A Tin Soldier's Love - II. To a Humming Bird - III. Summer Song - IV. Across Fields - V. Bluette - VI. An Elfin Round

In 1895, an "op. 8 Waltz" for piano by MacDowell was listed by Breitkopf & Hartel, but no price was shown, and the piece was not published.

Op. 10 First Modern Suite (1883) I. Praeludium - II. Presto - III. Andantino and Allegretto - IV. Intermezzo - V. Rhapsody - VI. Fugue

Op. 13 Prelude and Fugue (1883) I. Prelude - II. Fugue

Op. 14 Second Modern Suite (1883) I. Praeludium - II. Fugato - III. Rhapsody - IV. Scherzino - V. March - VI. Fantastic Dance

Op. 15 First Concerto (1885) I. Maestoso - II. Andante tranquillo - III. Presto

Op. 16 Serenata (1883)

Op. 17 Two Fantastic Pieces (1884) I. A Tale - II. Witches' Dance

Op. 18 Two Compositions (1884) I. Barcarolle - II. Humoreske

Op. 19 Forest Idyls (1884) I. Forest Stillness - II. Play of the Nymphs - III. Revery - IV. Dance of the Dryads

Op. 20 Three Poems (1886) duets I. Night by the Sea - II. A Tale from Knightly Times - III. Ballad

Op. 21 Moon Pictures (1886) duets after Hans Christian Andersen's "Picture-book without Pictures" I. The Hindoo Maiden - II. Story of the Stork - III. In the Tyrol - IV. The Swan - V. Visit of the Bear

Op. 23 Second Concerto (1890) I. Larghetto calmato - II. Presto giocoso - III. Largo

Op. 24 Four Compositions (1887) I. Humoreske - II. March - III. Cradle Song - IV. Czardas

Op. 28 Six Idyls after Goethe (1887) I. In the Woods - II. Siesta - III. To the Moonlight - IV. Silver Clouds - V. Flute Idyl - VI. The Bluebell

Op. 31 Six Poems after Heine (1887,1901) I. From a Fisherman's Hut - II. Scotch Poem - III. From Long Ago - IV. The Postwaggon - V. The Shepherd Boy - VI. Monologue

Op. 32 Four Little Poems (1888) I. The Eagle - II. The Brook - III. Moonshine - IV. Winter

Op. 36 Etude de Concert (1889)

Op. 37 Les Orientales (1889) I. Clair de Lune - II. Dans le Hamac - III. Danse Andalouse

Op. 38 Marionettes (1888,1901) I. Prologue - II. Soubrette - III. Lover - IV. Witch - V. Clown - VI. Villain - VII. Sweetheart - VIII. Epilogue

Op. 39 Twelve Studies (1890) I. Hunting Song - II. Alla Tarantella - III. Romance - IV. Arabesque - V. In the Forest - VI. Dance of the Gnomes - VII. Idyl - VIII. Shadow Dance - IX. Intermezzo - X. Melodie - XI. Scherzino - XII. Hungarian

Op. 45 Sonata Tragica (1893) I. Largo maestoso - II. Molto allegro, vivace - III. Largo con maesta - IV. Allegro eroica

Op. 46 Twelve Virtuoso Studies (1894) I. Novelette - II. Moto Perpetuo - III. Wild Chase - IV. Improvisation - V. Elfin Dance - VI. Valse Triste - VII. Burlesque - VIII. Bluette - IX. Traumerei - X. March Wind - XI. Impromptu - XII. Polonaise

Op. 49 Air and Rigaudon (1894) I. Air - II. Rigaudon

Op. 50 Sonata Eroica (1895) "Flos regum Arthurus" I. Slow, with nobility - II. Elf-like, as light and swift as possible - III. Tenderly, longingly, yet with passion - IV. Fiercely, very fast

Op. 51 Woodland Sketches (1896) I. To a Wild Rose - II. Will o' the Wisp - III. At an Old Trysting Place - IV. In Autumn - V. From an Indian Lodge - VI. To a Water-lily - VII. From Uncle Remus - VIII. A Deserted Farm - IX. By a Meadow Brook - X. Told at Sunset

Op. 55 Sea Pieces (1898) I. To the Sea - II. From a Wandering Iceberg - III. A. D. 1620 - IV. Starlight - V. Song - VI. From the Depths - VII. Nautilus - VIII. In Mid-Ocean

Op. 57 Third Sonata (1900) I. Mesto, ma con passione - II. Tristamente, ma con tenerezza - III. Allegro con fuoco Op. 59 Fourth Sonata (1901) I. With great power and dignity - II. With naive tenderness - III. Very swift and fierce Op. 61 Fireside Tales (1902) I. An Old Love Story - II. Of Br'er Rabbit - III. From a German Forest - IV. Of Salamanders - V. A Haunted House - VI. By Smouldering Embers

Op. 62 New England Idyls (1902) I. An Old Garden - II. Mid-Summer - III. Mid-Winter - IV. With Sweet Lavender - V. In Deep Woods - VI. Indian Idyl - VII. To an Old White Pine - VIII. From Puritan Days - IX. From a Log Cabin - X. The Joy of Autumn

MacDowell also published two books of Technical Exercises for piano, piano duet transcriptions of Hamlet and Ophelia for orchestra (op. 22) and First Suite for orchestra (op.42), and a piano solo version of op. 42, no. 4, "The Shepherdess' Song", renamed "The Song of the Shepherdess".

Published compositions for orchestra, a complete listing

Op. 15 First Concerto (1885)
Op. 22 Hamlet and Ophelia (1885)
Op. 23 Second Concerto (1890)
Op. 25 Lancelot and Elaine (1888)
Op. 29 Lamia (1908)
Op. 30 Two Fragments after the Song of Roland (1891) I. The Saracens - II. The Lovely Alda
Op. 35 Romance for Violoncello and Orchestra (1888)
Op. 42 First Suite (1891-1893) I. In a Haunted Forest - II. Summer Idyl - III. In October - IV. The Shepherdess' Song - V. Forest Spirits
Op. 48 Second ("Indian") Suite (1897) I. Legend - II. Love Song - III. In War-time - IV. Dirge - V. Village Festival

Published songs

Op. 3 Love and Time and The Rose and the Gardener, for male chorus (1897) by Edgar Thorn

Op. 5 The Witch, for male chorus (1898) by Edgar Thorn

Op. 6 War Song, for male chorus (1898) by Edgar Thorn

Op. 9 Two Old Songs, for voice and piano (1894) I. Deserted - II. Slumber Song

Op. 11 and 12 An Album of Five Songs, for voice and piano (1883) I. My Love and I - II. You Love Me Not - III. In the Skies - IV. Night-Song - V. Bands of Roses

Op. 26 From an Old Garden, for voice and piano (1887) I. The Pansy - II. The Myrtle - III. The Clover - IV. The Yellow Daisy - V. The Blue Bell - VI. The Mignonette

Op. 27 Three Songs, for male chorus (1890) I. In the Starry Sky Above Us - II. Springtime - III. The Fisherboy

Op. 33 Three Songs, for voice and piano (1894) I. Prayer - II. Cradle Hymn - III. Idyl

Op. 34 Two Songs, for voice and piano (1889) I. Menie - II. My Jean

Op. 40 Six Love Songs, for voice and piano (1890) I. Sweet, Blue-eyed Maid - II. Sweetheart, Tell Me - III. Thy Beaming Eyes - IV. For Love's Sweet Sake - V. O Lovely Rose - VI. I Ask but This

Op. 41 Two Songs, for male chorus (1890) I. Cradle Song - II. Dance of the Gnomes

Op. 43 Two Northern Songs, for mixed chorus (1891) I. The Brook - II. Slumber Song

Op. 44 Barcarolle, for mixed chorus with four-hand piano accompaniment (1892)

Op. 47 Eight Songs, for voice and piano (1893) I. The Robin Sings in the Apple Tree - II. Midsummer Lullaby - III. Folk Song - IV. Confidence - V. The West Wind Croons in the Cedar Trees - VI. In the Woods - VII. The Sea - VIII. Through the Meadow

Two Songs from the Thirteenth Century, for male chorus (1897) I. Winter Wraps his Grimmest Spell - II. As the Gloaming Shadows Creep

Op. 52 Three Choruses, for male voices (1897) I. Hush, hush! - II. From the Sea - III. The Crusaders

Op. 53 Two Choruses, for male voices (1898) I. Bonnie Ann - II. The Collier Lassie

Op. 54 Two Choruses, for male voices (1898) I. A Ballad of Charles the Bold - II. Midsummer Clouds

Op. 56 Four Songs, for voice and piano (1898) I. Long Ago - II. The Swan Bent Low to the Lily - III. A Maid Sings Light - IV. As the Gloaming Shadows Creep

Op. 58 Three Songs, for voice and piano (1899) I. Constancy - II. Sunrise - III. Merry Maiden Spring

Op. 60 Three Songs, for voice and piano (1902) I. Tyrant Love - II. Fair Springtide - III. To the Golden Rod

Summer Wind, for women's voices (1902)

Two College Songs, for women's voices (1907) I. Alma Mater - II. At Parting



  • Lawrence Gilman, Edward MacDowell: A Study (New York, 1909)
  • W. J. Baltzell (editor), Critical and Historical Essays: Lectures Delivered at Columbia University by Edward MacDowell (Boston, 1912)
  • Oscar Sonneck, Catalogue of First Editions of Edward MacDowell (Library of Congress, 1917)
  • John F. Porte, Edward Macdowell: A Great American Tone Poet, His Life and Music (New York, 1922)


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