Lydia Maria Bader with "Tales of the Sea" | “Water Pieces” by Bloch, Zhu Gongyi, Samazeuilh, Bridge, A. Rubinstein and MacDowell

A watershed year. An unforgettable year. A year that should change an entire life. For Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) it was the year 1874. At that time the musically highly gifted teenager from New York embarked on his first trip to Europe. The large and small cities of England, Germany and France opened up before his eyes, even more enchanting and picturesque than the descriptions in books suggested. The Atlantic Ocean seemed even more powerful and mysterious than he could have imagined: a true "monster" - as Carl Maria von Weber had once characterized “it” in his opera “Oberon”.

A little later, in April 1876, MacDowell went across the Atlantic once more. This time to be educated as the youngest student at the Paris Conservatory. He returned to his home for a longer period in autumn of 1888, now a fresh graduate (as well) of the Frankfurt Conservatory and, moreover, a protégé of Franz Liszt. In the year of 1903 MacDowell experienced his last encounter with the Atlantic “monster”. Back then he had already become a renowned pianist and composer as well as the first professor of music at New York's Columbia University. However, the sight of the great ocean astonished him over and over again.

MacDowell documented his travel impressions in his very own way – in the piano cycle Sea Pieces op. 55 (1898). The cycle consists of eight “tone poems” or “tone pictures”, among which the longest barely comprises four printed pages. Each of the pieces was connected by the composer to a poetic motto (generally written by himself). Sometimes the aphorisms evoke maritime landscapes, sometimes they are (fantastic) travel incidents from the past.

This favorite work of MacDowell, which he himself performed regularly until his somewhat mysterious death in 1908, is unfortunately hardly known or heard in our time. But now it has been brilliantly rediscovered by Lydia Maria Bader. On her new CD Tales of the Sea, which was released on July 7th by the label Ars Production, the German pianist combines the mentioned cycle with other “Water Pieces” by Ernest Bloch, Gustave Samazeuilh, Frank Bridge and Anton Rubinstein. The picturesque Overture: Small Stream by the Chinese composer Zhu Gongyi completes the program of 'maritime tone pictures’. And it also creates an artful link to Bader's previous album Chines Dreams.


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