Previous volumes in the series;
As with the third volume
in Naxos’s impressive Powell series
this final one contains an unexpected
bonus for collectors and discographers
in the form of the previously unpublished
1913 Borowski. Elsewhere the high standards
are properly and rightly maintained,
from full recording details to good
quality transfers, and biographical
notes. Powell devotees and those interested
in performance practice will need no
second invitation. To those yet to make
her acquaintance I’d suggest starting
with one of the earlier volumes because
as well as concluding the series we
also have a very useful – though specialist
– mopping up operation of releases.
So there is the 1907 and 1916 Gluck
Melodie, the 1904 and 1916 Neruda and
the 1907 and 1909 Drdla. The later recordings
replaced the earlier inevitably displaying
greater technical fidelity.
Since the series is
not chronological and ranges back and
forth across Powell’s recorded career
I would be repeating my previous reviews
to a large extent – so please see those
for specifics of her performing style.
There are still some interesting points
to note though. Her earlier Gluck is
a considerably less impressive performance
than the later one – gauche portamenti,
a slow vibrato, monochrome tone and
compromised intonation – but the 1916
disc is quicker, firmer and more streamlined
even if it does sound a mite rushed.
Her Mendelssohn Concerto finale must
have been one of the very first recordings
of it – velocity wins out over style
here and there’s an intriguing cut or
two (it would have fitted the disc).
One of the less well-preserved discs
is the Wieniawski Capriccio Valse, where
her bowing is fine but the tone is scratchy
and the vibrato woefully slow.
A comic highpoint is
the absurd-comedic leaning on phrases
in the Chopin, her own arrangement but
the Sauret Farfalla, a piece she recorded
more than once, is full of vim and charm
and shows her great communicative powers.
We do see a gradual tightening up in
her playing if we compare the earlier
and later recordings of the same piece.
As with the Gluck her Drdla is better
the second time around – far less riddled
with gaucheries and old school mannerisms.
Why wasn’t the Borowski released at
the time? Was it the final two bars?
This has been a major
undertaking by Naxos. Powell’s complete,
issued output is now available in four
budget priced CDs. There’s a great deal
here to ponder in the musicianship of
this important figure and Naxos has
been wise in utilising Ward Marston’s
work, much of which first appeared in
CDs and cassettes for the Maud Powell
Foundation. A series like this deserves
a salute and it gets one from me.