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Maud Powell (1867-1920) The Complete 1904-1917 Recordings Volume 3
TENAGLIA (c1610-20 – after 1661)

Air –Have Pity, Sweet Eyes
Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764)

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1750)

Xerxes; Largo
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Violin Concerto in E minor Op 64; Finale
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Minuet in G No 2
Rene de BOISDEFFRE (1834-1906)

Au bord d’un ruisseau Op 52 (At the brook)
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)

GILBERT (1879-1964)

Marionettes – Scherzo
Jenö HUBAY (1858-1937)

Hejre Kati
Moritz MOSKOWSKI (1835-1880)

Serenata arr Rehfeld
NERUDA (1843-1915)

Slavonic Cradle Song Op 11
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

The Swan
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Crépuscule – arr Powell
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)

Musette Op 27
Valse Triste
SAAR (1868-1937)

Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)

Chanson à bercer
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)

Kujawiak Op 3 No 2
Mazurka Op 19 No 2
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La Bohème Potpourri
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR (1875-1912)

Deep River arr Powell
Maud Powell (violin) with variously
George Falkenstein (piano)
Arthur Loesser (piano)
Waldemar Liachowsky (piano)
Francis J Lapitino (harp)
Brass Orchestra
Orchestra conducted by Josef A Pasternack
Recorded 1909-17
NAXOS 8.110963 [68.58]



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As with the first two volumes of this Maud Powell series from Naxos, both of which I’ve reviewed here [1] [2], the third is an engaging selection of repertoire spanning much of her life in the recording studios. It includes one very pleasant surprise in the form of a potpourri from La Bohème, which has never before been issued and appears courtesy of the RCA Music Group. It’s the only unpublished recording of Powell’s for which a metal master still remains though hope springs eternal in the 78 collector’s heart and more may yet turn up. As before let me register my accustomed caveat now – this is a series that should have followed Powell’s recording career chronologically, beginning with her 1904 sessions and ending with her last in 1917.

Still, that gripe aside – and I concede that it makes better programming sense to mix and match – there is as ever much to interest and beguile the listener. Powell was an assertive musician and timidity was not her forte and so we have some splendid examples of her buoyant musicianship as well as examples of performance practice that will educate and intrigue. There are some mechanical sounding thumps on the first track, the Tenaglia, and Powell is guilty of some fairly gauche portamanti though her dynamics are sensitive and artful. Her Leclair Tambourin is really fine though – splendidly animated and resilient, a top class performance. All the references I’ve ever seen to the 1914 recording of Handel’s once ubiquitous "Largo" – she recorded it twice – cite a string quartet in support; Rattay, Fruncillo, Levy and Bourdon. This isn’t it. Howard Rattay made some Victors – indeed as an obbligato player to Farrar -and Bourdon is well known to cello collectors. But this recording features a rather stolid brass group accompanying her (in the discography printed in Karen Shaffer’s Maud Powell biography the accompaniment is given as string quartet plus tuba, not as incredible as it might sound). Perhaps someone should have a look at the Victor recording ledgers again.

Powell’s rather slow vibrato is shown up in Beethoven’s Minuet, in the lower strings particularly where there is an endemic lack of lyric vibrancy. The finale of the Mendelssohn Concerto however is a stylish and neat one with a couple of unsightly bulges aside; it’s not as impressive as Ysaye’s almost contemporaneous Columbia version but Victor’s sides were longer and Powell plays more of it. Boisdeffre’s inconsequential Au bord receives a charming performance; don’t be put off by the initial scuffing as the sound quality improves. No recital was complete without Dvorak’s Humoresque and Powell plays it with technical adroitness though with something less than vibrance. In the lyric episodes her rather dry tone tends to limit opulence and she has a tendency here to rush passages to heighten contrast. She shows off her pizzicato in Gilbert’s Marionettes, an atmospheric little genre scherzo and there is some unusually emotive playing in Hubay’s Hejre Kati (spelt incorrectly in the notes). This is in fact a splendid performance; nice finger position changes, fine sense of elastic rhythm, sleek and vibrant playing, excellent projection. It was a one-take performance as well. Her Zephyr is on a slightly less exalted level, lacking the same sense of theatre. She makes up for the relative lack of panache here in the following item, Moszkowski’s Serenata, though her lack of vibrancy in the slower sections is a distinct handicap. She must have had a liking for Neruda’s Slavonic Cradle Song because she first recorded it in 1904, again in 1909 (one take with the mute) and once more in 1916 again with Arthur Loesser in 1916. We have here the middle recording – the piece itself is a mildly spiced one, rather formulaic but sensitively shaped by Powell and especially good in the higher positions. Indeed examples of her sensitive ear for contour and phrasing are littered throughout this disc – the Saint-Saëns, Massenet and Sibelius Musette are all examples. In Valse Triste though more slowish vibrato disappoints but there is affecting delicacy as well and we are also reminded of her propagandist work with regard to Sibelius’ Violin Concerto; she gave the first American performance in 1906 and toured it doughtily and repeatedly. Florent Schmitt’s Chanson à bercer is winningly done in this 1914 Victor (was this the first Schmitt on disc?) whereas Wieniawski’s Kujawiak is forceful and clean but not really opulent enough to be persuasive. The unissued Puccini is very much of its time – the kind of thing the British violinist Mary Law was so adept at doing on the Zonophone label, operatic paraphrases and highlights. A tremendous survival and in fine aural shape as well. The disc concludes with Coleridge-Taylor’s version of Deep River. She premiered his Violin Concerto – dedicated to her – though she apparently found it charming but lightweight. Powell was always a most impressive player of spirituals and she does the work proud with some fine lower string depth.

Once again the transfers don’t differ markedly from those that Ward Marston prepared for the Maud Powell Foundation’s CDs and cassettes of some years ago. The series maintains its excellence in this latest release.

Jonathan Woolf


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