To a Wild Rose (MacDowell)

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Photograph by Estelle Huntington Huggins of Edward Alexander MacDowell; 1906

To a Wild Rose is the first piece from Ten Woodland Sketches, Op. 51, by the American composer Edward MacDowell. It was completed in 1896 and first published by Breitkopf and Härtel.


The MacDowell's log cabin in Peterborough, New Hampshire

To a Wild Rose, one of the European-trained MacDowell's most well-known and loved pieces, is part of the larger Woodland Sketches, finished in 1896 for solo piano.[1] The composer incorporated certain Native American themes into it.[2] Alan Levy, the critic and biographer, wrote:

Marian recalled how her husband would regularly write a few measures during breakfast — "like exercise" — before going off to the cabin. Normally, MacDowell discarded such fragments, and this particular morning he crumpled the paper and tossed it at the fireplace. He happened to miss the target, however, and rather than summarily throwing it away, Marian later picked up the paper, uncrumpled it, and looked it over. She played it at the piano and decided to keep it. When Edward later returned from the cabin she showed it to him and said: "This is a charming little melody." Edward looked at it anew and agreed, "It is not bad — very simple. It makes me think of wild roses near the cabin."[3]

However, Marian's version of the story is slightly different. She wrote that the fragment made her husband think of their "log cabin"[4] — as opposed to "cabin" — which was not built until 1898, two years after the Sketches were published.[5]

The composer's love for roses was so great that he was buried under a boulder, around which many rose plants grew.[6]


Numerous arrangements of the piece have been made. Though the original was for solo piano, it has been arranged for two sopranos, alto and piano by Hermann Hagerdorn.[1] Additionally, Nat King Cole played his own version of the song. Levy said that the piece is best played by children, as they wouldn't embellish it heavily but perform it quite simply.[7][8]


  1. ^ a b Hanson, Jennifer. "The Song". Jennifer's To A Wild Rose. Retrieved 6 January 2016. 
  2. ^ Lewis, Uncle Dave. "Edward MacDowell: Woodland Sketches (10) for piano, Op. 51". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 January 2016. 
  3. ^ Levy, Alan Howard (1998). Edward MacDowell, an American Master. Scarecrow Press. p. 152-153. ISBN 9780810834637. 
  4. ^ MacDowell, Marian (1950). Random Notes on Edward MacDowell and His Music. A.P. Schmidt Company. p. 10-11. 
  5. ^ Neumeyer, David (2015). On MacDowell's "To a Wild Rose" (PDF). The University of Texas at Austin. p. 1. 
  6. ^ "1924 Mar 22, 24: Young People's Concert; Schelling". Leon Levy Digital Archives. New York Philharmonic. Retrieved 6 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Levy, p. 153
  8. ^ Brewer, Abbie Corrine. "A performance guide to selected character pieces of Edward MacDowell". University of Iowa Research Online. University of Iowa. 

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