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Lecture Recital

Pianist Ulrich Roman Murtfeld/Germany

Biographical and analytical aspects and an approach to the interpretation of selected piano pieces of Edward MacDowell


Edward MacDowell (1860-1908)

„To a Wild Rose“ and „To a Water lily“ from Woodland Sketches op. 51
"Moto Perpetuo" and "March Wind" from Twelve Virtuoso Studies op. 46

From New England Idyls op. 62
An Old Garden 
Midwinter
In Deep Woods
From a Log Cabin
The Joy of Autumn      
                                                                                                    



Composing for the piano was of tremendous importance to Edward MacDowell, America’s greatest composer of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. Based on excellent training as a concert pianist that he received parallel to his studies of composition at prestigious conservatories in Paris and Frankfurt, MacDowell was able to support his growing fame as composer by performing in public as a pianist. He played standard repertoire, as well as his own music, to great acclaim. Among MacDowell’s piano works, one finds both longer compositions like sonatas, suites just like etudes and a great number of shorter pieces. MacDowell had a special gift for transforming poetic ideas, images and moods into character pieces of wonderful charm and expression. Among them are the Virtuoso Studies op. 46, Woodland Sketches op. 51 and the New England Idyls op. 62 that were all composed at a relatively late stage in the life of the composer who passed away tragically, due to an obscure illness in his late fourties. They belong to the works of maturity in which MacDowell produced his artistically most elaborate and expressive music of great individuality and inspiration. The harmonics used by the composer can be described as typically late romantic, very expressive and enriched with chromaticism and dissonances. The dynamic range in these pieces is enormous. Following principles of romanticism in music the composition style of MacDowell is characterized also by the elaboration of expressive melodies underlining the similarity of these very poetic piano pieces to art songs. The large variety of technical refinement demands the full scale mastery from the interpreter. As the piano pieces reveal the vast and powerful imagination of the composer the pianist is demanded to fully put himself into the atmosphere and poetical ideas and moods of each piece. Only then will he be able to realize the artistic idea the composer had when writing this music.