Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

EDWARD MACDOWELL (1860-1908) Piano Music Vol. 4 James Barbagallo (piano) recorded August 1994 NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559030 [55:27]

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Etude de Concert
Second Modern suite
Two Fantasy Pieces
Twelve Etudes

Perhaps because his piano music was taken to the heart of so many players and straight into their piano stools Macdowell has had a reputation as a pedlar of charming miniatures written to skill levels attainable by the domestic players of the period 1880-1920. As this disc demonstrates emphatically his music is worth much more. He is at least as adept and fresh as Grieg and Saint-Saens at their best.

Etude de Concert (1889) storms with Lisztian bravura and Barbagallo is sheerly wonderful. The playful and varied exuberance of the Second Modern Suite is well illustrated by its final Phantasie-Tanz. Macdowell is a composer of great eloquence and no arrogance. In some of his pieces he aspired toward Celtic regions but it required a wilder palette than his to mine that area deeply. After the brief charm of the Serenata we get two meaty fantasy pieces the first of which is an item of the sheerest loveliness and its partner is worthy of Saint-Saens - all wedding cake icing. The Hexentanz has no horror - being more Mendelssohnian. The final sequence of Twelve Virtuoso Studies are brilliant with an outstanding Hunting Song and Tarantella. The wild Dance Of The Gnomes is a veritable whirlwind.

There is a great deal of enlivening quick music on this disc and both the anthology and the Etudes end with a Hungarian presto. Vivid music making for Macdowell fanciers or for those who are curious and who already warm to Liszt and Saint-Saens.

I have no criticism of the playing which is presented with the secure passion of a great player who cares about the music he is advocating. What a tragedy that Barbagallo died before he could complete the cycle of sonatas. As it is he left us with only No. 4 (which is reviewed separately)

Notes (English only) by Victor and Marina A Ledin. These are beyond blemish.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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