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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Great Violinists: Maud POWELL (1867 - 1920)
The Complete 1904 - 1917 Recordings, Vol.1
BACH
- Partita No.1 in B Minor, BWV 1002: Tempo di Borea
GLUCK
- Minuetto
GLUCK-POWELL
- Orphée et Eurydice: Mélodie
BERIOT
- Violin Concerto No.7 in G major
BRUCH
- Kol Nidrei
SARASATE
- Zigeunerweisen
THOMAS-SARASATE
- Mignon: Gavotte
SARASATE
- Spanish Dance, Op.26, No.8
ELGAR
- Salut d'amour
Four American Folk Songs (arr. Powell)

My Old Kentucky Home (Foster)
Old Black Joe (Foster)
Shine On (Schoolcraft)
Kingdom Coming (Work)
EMMETT-BELLSTEDT
- Caprice on Dixie
DANKS
- Silver Threads Among the Gold
HERBERT
- Petite Valse
SAURET
- Farfalla, Op.40, No.3
VIEUXTEMPS
- Polonaise, Op.38
DRDLA
- Guitarrero ,Souvenir
GRAINGER
- Molly on the Shore
SCHUBERT
- The Bee
CHOPIN-POWELL
- Minute Waltz
MASSENET
- Thaïs: Méditation
Maud Powell (violin)
2,3,4,7,8,11,14,16,19,21,22,23 - George Falkenstein, Piano
5,6,15,18,20 - Arthur Loesser, piano
8,10 - Waldermar Liachowsky, piano
12 - Orchestra conducted by Josef A. Pasternack
17 - Pianist unknown
Recorded 1904 - 1917
NAXOS 8.110961
[71.56]



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I reviewed the second volume in Naxos’ Maud Powell series some time ago so won’t repeat some essential biographical material here . This earlier volume however is entirely representative of her playing, ranging from a session in April 1904 to one in June 1917 (she was born in 1867 and died in 1920). Consistencies of tone, expressivity and technical control run throughout these sessions and there is little here that lacks interest, either musically or specifically violinistically.

Her Bach emerges once again as splendidly buoyant and forward looking and her Gluck Minuetto somewhat less successful – with some applied expressive vibrato in lyric passages and some rather unconvincing slides. It’s a feature of her pre-turn-of-the-century playing – her training was essentially concluded by 1890 – that vibrato usage wasn’t constant and like many players of her generation she would use it as an expressive device. The Orfeo Melodie in her own arrangement is alternately sensitive and ardent but the on/off vibrato usage limits optimum expressivity and the unimaginatively repetitious slides vitiate the tension of the lyric line. A strange lack of differentiation in phrasing rather damages the performance, odd in a musician so frequently alert to this kind of thing. The Bériot redresses things in her favour; like her lively Bach, this is far from academic College fodder; on the contrary this is bold, slashing playing, wonderfully phrased with a strong architectural sense and splendid bowing in the finale. It’s worth pointing out that this piano-accompanied concerto was her most extended performance on record - the first movement was recorded in June 1915 with George Falkenstein – and the second and third followed a year later in June 1916 with a change of pianist, this time the young Arthur Loesser.

Some surface chuffing accompanies Bruch’s Kol Nidrei – and also considerable reserves of emotive sensitivity from Powell – elasticity of phrasing, excellent double stopping and an aura of introspection conveyed through serious and dedicated musicianship. She can certainly get her fingers around Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen (or at least the three-minute extract from it) if without really the requisite tone, and Elgar’s Salut d’amour is nicely and unsentimentally done. That tricksy bit of Americana, the Bellstedt-arranged Caprice on Dixie is well played technically but though athletic it is rather dry toned. Danks’ Silver Threads Among the Gold, beloved of sobbing cellists throughout the 78 era (take a bow W.H. Squire), is rather noncommittal and tonally impoverished once more whilst Herbert’s Petite Valse is much better, neat and stylish. Her technique withstands the demands of Sauret’s Farfalla but things sink again with some more dry playing in Vieuxtemps’ Polonaise, the earliest performance here, dating from 1904 and Drdla’s Guitarrero which is disappointing. The same composer’s Souvenir is stately, slow and dry and her own arrangement of the Minute Waltz is arch and silly. It’s a shame that the majority of poorer items are contained in the final couple of furlongs of this disc and that we end with another of her poor performances, Massenet’s Elegie, dry, lacking opulence, with dubious portamenti it simply can’t withstand the competition of the newly emerging tonalists from Russia and the central European players.

The series has been transferred by Ward Marston who has worked on the series he produced for the Maud Powell Foundation over a decade ago. They were both tapes and CDs and exactly matched these new Naxos CDs. It’s a mistake not to have issued them in chronological session order and not to have found better copies of those sides that caused problems last time around – and still do to an extent here. That said this is a series of major importance because Powell was a major violinist. No history of the Violin on Record is in any sense complete without her and I commend the series.

Jonathan Woolf



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