Edward MacDowell

From Academic Kids

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Edwardmacdowell.jpg
Edward and Marian MacDowell.
ca. 1905.

Edward Alexander MacDowell (New York, December 18, 1860 - January 23, 1908) was an American composer, best known for his piano concertos and piano miniatures, founder of the American Academy in Rome and the MacDowell Colony. His first seven Opus numbered compositions were published under the pseudonyms Edgar Thorn and Edgar Thorne.

Juan Buitrago, a Colombian violinist who was living with the MacDowell family at the time, gave the young Edward his first piano lessons and later with friends of Buitrago, including lessons from Teresa Carreņo, a Venezuelan pianist. His family moved to Paris, France and in 1877 Edward MacDowell was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire, then he went to the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, Germany to study piano with Carl Heymann and composition with Joachim Raff. When Franz Liszt visited the Conservatory in 1879, a recital of student compositions was put on and MacDowell presented some of his own along with transcriptions of a Liszt symphonic poem. MacDowell taught piano at the Darmstadt Conservatory for a year. In New York in 1884 MacDowell married Marian Griswold Nevins, whom he had met as a piano student of his.

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Portrait of Edward MacDowell

In 1888 he returned to the United States, where he shifted his focus from composer to concert pianist. He was appointed the first Professor of Music at Columbia,a position he held until 1904, and conducted the Mendelssohn Glee Club. Like Gustav Mahler, MacDowell was forced to relegate his compositional activities to the summer months.

In his final years MacDowell came up with the idea of establishing the MacDowell Colony at the site of his summer home in Peterborough, New Hampshire. After being run over by a hansom cab in 1904, his physical as well as mental health rapidly declined. The Mendelssohn Glee Club raised money to help MacDowell and his wife. MacDowell died of general paralysis, and was buried at Peterborough.

MacDowell wrote two Piano Concertos for himself to play. His solo piano oeuvre includes four sonatas, subtitled each "Tragica", "Eroica", "Norse" and "Keltic", as well as the piano miniatures for which he became best known. MacDowell set to music poems by Heine, Goethe and other German poets. For the Mendelssohn Glee Club, he wrote male choral pieces with English texts. Although MacDowell was an American composer, his music sounds more European than American.

In 1904, he was one of the first seven chosen for membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

On his passing in 1908 Edward MacDowell was buried in MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

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