Recently, SMR member Elizabeth McLain, in conjunction with Michael Saffle (Virginia Tech), had an article published in Fontes Artis Musicae entitled “Edward MacDowell’s Letters to Templeton Strong in the Library of Congress” (see abstract below). Congratulations, Elizabeth!
The letters Edward MacDowell addressed to Templeton Strong between 1886 and 1904 comprise one of the most interesting series of documents in late nineteenth-century American musical history. Strong donated their correspondence to the Library of Congress in 1930, but the letters were unavailable for examination for the next fifty years and are still incompletely referenced in the secondary literature. The letters discuss the return of MacDowell and his wife Marian to the United States in 1888, their early adventures in Boston during 1888 to 1890, MacDowell’s often contentious opinions of his fellow composers (including Chadwick and Foote), his professional struggles and successes, and his hobbies (especially photography). They also reveal much about their author’s character. For decades, MacDowell was widely considered the “perfect” American composer: handsome, virtuous, and successful. To some extent, the letters contradict this legend, and to some extent, they confirm or modify it. They also reveal similarities between the experiences of a turn-of-the-last century professional musician and those of today’s performers, composers, and teachers.