Academic journal article Notes

Edward MacDowell, Arthur P. Schmidt, and the Shakespeare Overtures of Joachim Raff: A Case Study in Nineteenth-Century Music Publishing

Academic journal article Notes

Edward MacDowell, Arthur P. Schmidt, and the Shakespeare Overtures of Joachim Raff: A Case Study in Nineteenth-Century Music Publishing

Article excerpt

Among the thousands of Americans who studied music in Germany during the second half of the nineteenth century, few stayed as long or developed ties as strong as Edward MacDowell (1860-1908). During a decade in Germany (1878-1888) he attended the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, taught piano at the Darmstadt Conservatory, established himself as a composer and pianist with performances throughout Europe, and made many lasting friendships. Nor did his ties end with his relocation to Boston in 1888. Particularly noteworthy in this regard is his correspondence with Doris Raff (1826-1912), widow of his former teacher, Joachim Raft (1822-1882). This series of five unpublished letters to her in the manuscript division of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, along with the other half of the correspondence in the MacDowell Collection at the Library of Congress, demonstrates his affection for his former teacher and also provides insight into the process of transatlantic publication before the Copyright Act of 1891.(1)

MacDowell enrolled in the recently established Hoch Conservatory in the spring of 1879 for the purpose of studying piano with Karl Heymann.(2) In addition to his piano studies he had the good fortune to be admitted to the composition class of Raff, the Conservatory's director. MacDowell studied at the Conservatory for three semesters, leaving in the summer of 1880. He continued his composition studies privately with Raft until the latter's death in 1882. During this time, Raff was consistently encouraging to the young American, urging him to make his career in Germany. Raff helped him establish a name for himself by recommending his work to Franz Liszt, who gave MacDowell the opportunity to perform his Erste Moderne Suite at the Zurich festival of the Allgemeiner deutscher Musikverein on 9-12 July 1882.(3)

Raft is best remembered today for his years with Liszt in Weimar. In the early 1850s Liszt was developing his symphonic poems, but his background as a piano virtuoso had not adequately prepared him for the work of instrumentation. He consequently enlisted the services of Raff, a gifted orchestrator, who lived in Weimar from 1850 to 1856. The two collaborated on the earliest tone poems, and the extent of Raff's contribution has been debated hotly.(4) Despite his early association with Liszt, Raff as a composer assiduously avoided aligning himself with either the New German School or the "classicist" group of Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, and their followers. His works, while characterized by brilliant orchestration, are marred by this philosophical stance. Horst Leuchtmann summarized his musical style harshly in the New Grove Dictionary of Music by stating: "Raff's attempt at synthesis led to an unattractive eclecticism and mixture of styles, and his penchant for salon-like music made him susceptible to triviality and sometimes vulgarity."(5) Woldemar Bargiel (1828-1897), half-brother of Clara Schumann and professor of composition at the Berlin Hochschule, described his music as "cold and hollow," and went on to say: "The man is puzzling to me musically. He gives ideas and melodies that appear as if they should tear the soul from the body, but one is left with the conviction that their inventor felt absolutely nothing for them; and on top of that this most modern harmonic impurity!"(6)

Despite the negative opinions of his contemporaries, MacDowell retained a fondness for his former teacher and a respect for his music, which led him to initiate the exchange of letters that is the subject of this article. Shortly after he moved from Germany to Boston in the fall of 1888, he wrote to Raff's widow Doris, now living in Munich, about the possibility of publishing some of her husband's works:

12 January 1889

Dear Frau Raff!

In the hope that you have not yet forgotten my name, I take the liberty of addressing a few lines to you. I would namely like to inquire whether you have published the contrapuntal studies of our unforgettable master - and if not, whether you would be opposed to it. …

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