Edward (Alexander) MacDowell

American Born 18 Dec 1860 Died 23 Jan 1908

Edward Alexander MacDowell (New York, 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 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.

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. The Mendelssohn Glee Club, for which he had composed choral music, raised money to help the MacDowells. Edward MacDowell died in 1908 and was buried in MacDowell Colony, which Marian MacDowell had established in 1907.

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