2010 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Edward MacDowell (1860–1908), the most important American composer prior to Charles Ives. After discussing MacDowell’s position in music history, the author focuses on his second piano concerto in D minor (1884–1886). First, the work is described structurally with regard to form and generic features. Then the author recalls his excitement when, as a boy of fifteen, he listened to the magnificent recording of the concerto by Van Cliburn and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (recorded in 1960). He ascertains that traditional criteria for musical value, such as structural integration (thematic coherence, tonal unity), played a lesser part in his listening experience than the character of the music, the tensional fluxes and Cliburn’s virtuosity. In works like MacDowell’s concerto, the virtuoso and idiomatic element must be regarded as an essential part of the aesthetic basis and the musical expression.

Keywords: MacDowell, piano concerto, virtuosity, Van Cliburn