Saturday, May 4, 2013

Maud Powell

It would be extremely difficult to conjecture how many girls have gone to Europe in the past twenty-five years to perfect themselves in the art of violin-playing; but to determine how many have returned to us with sufficient ability to command respect, or even some slight interest, is absolutely easy.
                By this we do not mean to imply that the numerous American girls who flock to Europe every year are insufficiently gifted to achieve something praiseworthy in the art to which they so feverishly devote their  lives.  We simply wish to record the sad fact that of the hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of American girls who have gone to Berlin, to Dresden, to Leipzig, to Prague, in the past twenty years or more, the number of failures, absolute failures, has been appallingly disproportionate with the number that have succeeded in accomplishing nothing more than just saving themselves from total obscurity.  And as to the number of those who have actually gained and deserved wide recognition—well, that is still another story—a sad story, indeed.
                One name, however, stands out among these countless aspirants to fame—a name that has long been familiar to all music lovers in the United States—a name that commands the respect and admiration of our public and our critics—the name Maud Powell.

                In fact, it is not too much to say that Maud Powell is the only American violinist of her sex who has stood the severe tests to which an artist is put and has not been found wanting.  Year after year she has striven for something higher, and attained it.  She has never yielded to the fatal temptations of self-satisfaction, but has untiringly  and courageously labored each year to be a worthier representative  of her art.  She has never succumbed for a day to the deadly adulation of a class of admirers that has made many players the fashion for a fitfully brief season, but has steadily risen, year after year, in the esteem of the public because her art has as steadily risen with every new year of her professional activities.
                In a word, Maud Powell enjoys the peculiar distinction of being the only American violinist of unquestionable note.  Others there have been, it is true, who gave promise of dignifying their calling; but these have disappeared from the musical horizon after a brief and ephemeral success.
                Not content always to appear in public with some well-known concerto, Maud Powell is constantly enlarging her repertoire, and this season she introduced an entirely new work by Sibelius.  in this courageous effort, we regret to say, she was most seriously handicapped, for this new concerto failed utterly to make a favorable impression.  Even her excellent performance of the work could not save it; and she will probably have to discard it in future seasons.  Let us hope that in her quest for a new concerto next year her success will offset her present disappointment.
 Enjoy samples of Hilary Hahn performing Jean Sibelius', "Violin Concerto" (4 parts):


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