The solo songs of Edward MacDowell : an examination of style and literary influence

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Shah, Uttamlal T.
Jackson, Philip T.
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Edward MacDowell is widely recognized as America's first great native-born composer. His music has come to be characterized as being extremely lyrical and harmonically inventive. Solo songs constitute an overlooked area of MacDowell's output and no serious study has been undertaken of them to date. The goal of this dissertation is to obtain a more complete portrait of MacDowell through a detailed examination of his songs.Previously unstudied manuscripts and sketches from the MacDowell Collection of the Library of Congress provide important insights into his songwriting process. The choice of text proved to be such an important determinant in MacDowell's settings that the author has chosen to divide the songs into three stylistic groupings based primarily on MacDowell's selection of texts rather than on chronology.In MacDowell's first-period songs, he concentrated on setting German texts while living in Germany from 1880 to 1888. Poetry by Heine, Goethe, and Klopstock plays an important role in these songs, which are stylistically similar to the nineteenth-century Lied. Chromatic harmonies, frequent modulations, and active piano accompaniments characterize these songs.MacDowell's second-period songs, written between 1886 and 1890, use English texts and differ markedly from the earlier Lieder. While many of their texts (and consequently, best songs of this group show the development of MacDowell's characteristic harmonic language and lyricism.The second-period songs serve as a transition into MacDowell's final songwriting period (c. 1893-1901), during which he wrote his most successful works. The third-period songs are delineated by the use of original poetry and represent a synthesis of the first two periods. The chromaticism and active piano parts of the lieder are combined with the new lyricism of the second-period songs.Songwriting spans MacDowell's entire career and is evidence of the seriousness with which he viewed the medium. A thorough study of the songs, both published and unpublished, reveals a steady line of development throughout MacDowell's career, with many musical advances predicated by the text. This development, which closely mirrors similar advances in the piano music, is an important factor in MacDowell's entire creative output.