The music of Edward MacDowell this week, as performed by the legendary Rudolph Ganz in a session done for the World Broadcasting Transcription service in 1945.
What this was doing on the flip side of a Dick Haymes session is beyond me – more frustrating, is that it’s only the first and third movements of this four movement work. It’s hoped that the second and fourth movements were pressed on another disc and show up eventually. But for now, this is all we’ve got and the performance is pretty astonishing as is.
By doing some deductive reasoning around other sessions produced for this company, my best guess is that it was recorded early in 1945 – or it was recorded sometime in 1944 and released in early 1945. The problem with just about all of these radio transcription services is the woeful lack of solid session information because so many of them changed hands or went out of business completely and as is often the case, the one thing that gets tossed in the trash first is the paperwork. So it’s guesswork.
Rudolph Ganz was active in the promotion of new music throughout his career. Ferruccio Busoni, Christian Sinding, Charles Griffes, and Alexander Tcherepnin, among others, dedicated works to Ganz. In 1923 he received the Légion d’honneur of France for his introduction of the works of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel to American audiences, and in later years he performed and conducted pieces by Pierre Boulez, John Cage and Arthur Honegger. Ravel, in a letter to Ganz, thanked him for his performances of Ravel’s work, and dedicated “Scarbo” the third part of his composition Gaspard de la Nuit to him in gratitude.
As late as the 1960s Ganz continued to pioneer new music. In 1961 Ganz edited fourteen early songs of Anton Webern that were published in three volumes by Carl Fischer, Inc. Earlier that year Hans Moldenhauer, Anton Webern scholar archivist at the University of Washington, and donor of the Moldenhauer Archives, had visited Ganz and his wife Esther LaBerge in Chicago. Moldenhauer, who was also a friend and former Ganz student, had just discovered a number of original manuscripts in the attic of the Webern home in Mittersill, Austria. Showing copies of the manuscripts to the Ganzes, he said, “Take whatever you want to perform.” They selected fourteen songs written between 1899 and 1904 when Webern was sixteen to twenty years old. In May 1962, Ganz accompanied his wife Esther LaBerge, mezzo-soprano, in the world premiere of the early Anton Webern songs at the First International Webern Festival during the Seattle World’s Fair.
Ganz’s students during the 1930s and 1940s included John La Montaine (composer), Hans Moldenhauer, Joseph Bloch (pianist, Alkan scholar, and professor at The Juilliard School), Dorothy Donegan (jazz pianist), Edward Gordon (executive director of the Ravinia Festival), Wanda Paul (pianist and faculty member at Northwestern University), and Robert McDowell (pianist and faculty member at Chicago Musical College). Other students included Dean Sanders (Professor Emeritus, School of Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Deniz Arman Gelenbe (Professor and Chair Emeritus at the Trinity-Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London), Audley Wasson (1915-2001), Marion Edna Hall (1910–2012), who taught for many years at the University of Indiana’s Jacobs School of Music, Abby Whiteside, Evelyn Hora, Gena Branscombe, Beatrice Sharp Karan (1918–1909), Evelyn (Wilgus) Lewis, Adrian Lerner Newman Goldman, Vera Bradford Arne Sorensen, Sheldon Shkolnik, Jeffrey Siegel, and Ludmila Lazar.
He died in Chicago at the age of 95 on Aug. 2, 1972. A newspaper headline read: “A Last link with Liszt passes on.”
After his death in 1908, Edward MacDowell was considered as a great, internationally known American composer. In 1940, MacDowell was one of five American composers honored in a series of United States postage stamps. The other four composers were Stephen Foster, John Philip Sousa, Victor Herbert, and Ethelbert Nevin. However, as the twentieth century progressed, his fame was eclipsed by such American composers as Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and Roy Harris. In 1950s, Gilbert Chase, an American music historian and critic, wrote, “When Edward MacDowell appeared on the scene, many Americans felt that here at last was ‘the great American composer’ awaited by the nation. But MacDowell was not a great composer. At his best he was a gifted miniaturist with an individual manner. Creatively, he looked toward the past, not toward the future. He does not mark the beginning of a new epoch in American music, but the closing of a fading era, the fin de siecle decline of the genteel tradition which had dominated American art since the days of Hopkinson and Hewitt.” In the 1970s, John Gillespie reaffirmed Chase’s opinion by writing that MacDowell’s place in time “accounts for his decreasing popularity; he does not belong with the great Romantics, Schumann and Brahms, but neither can be regarded as a precursor of twentieth century music.” Other critics, such as Virgil Thomson, maintained that MacDowell’s legacy would be reconsidered and regain a place proper to its significance in the history of American music.