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American Virtuosa: Tribute to Maud Powell
Rachel Barton Pine, violin
Matthew Hagle, piano
Cedille Records CDR 90000 097
Maud Powell (1867-1920) was America's first classical music superstar: an international concert violinist of the first rank, a best-selling recording artist, a dynamo devoted to American composers and the belief that everyone deserves to experience great music performed at the highest level.
A kindred spirit, celebrated American violinist Rachel Barton Pine performs music dedicated to and arranged by Maud Powell. Some of the composers you know: Chopin, Dvorak, Sibelius. Others are yours to discover: Beach, Bauer, Burleigh, and many more.
Pine is among the first to perform Maud Powell's transcriptions and music dedicated to her since Powell took the concert world by storm at the turn of the 20th century.
When Pine performed her Maud Powell tribute last year, the Washington Post declared, "Pine displays a power and confidence that puts her in the top echelon of recitalists. . . . Channeling the spirit of Powell, she played Dvorak with fire and passion . . . and gave Sibelius a sensational twist."
A Personal Note from Rachel Barton Pine
I'm frequently asked to name my favorite violinist. It's virtually impossible - each of us has strengths and weaknesses. I admire certain performances and certain aspects of many players, and I draw inspiration from many violinists past and present. However, the violinist I most admire is definitely Maud Powell.
Despite being an avid researcher of violin music and history, I had never heard of Maud Powell until Karen Shaffer sent me a copy of Maud's biography in 1995. I was fascinated to read about her remarkable and inspirational life. Reading on planes and in hotel rooms, I learned how she became the greatest American violinist in the late 1800s and early 1900s while also breaking so many social stereotypes: choosing to dedicate her life to her career; leading a string quartet of men; championing music by contemporary composers, American composers, women composers, and Black composers; and introducing classical music to numerous new listeners. She is often in the back of my mind today as I perform works by contemporary, women, and Black composers; as I perform rock and classical music in non-traditional venues; and as I give benefit concerts, support young string players, and strive for improvement and greater understanding in all of my interpretations.
Why is Maud Powell not better known today? I believe there are several contributing factors. Unlike Leopold Auer, she didn't leave a pedagogical legacy. While Maud was committed to music education and encouraged every young violinist who came to her for advice, her touring schedule was too intense to maintain a teaching studio. Unlike Heifetz, she didn't live into the electric recording era. And, unlike Wieniawski or Kreisler, she never wrote any original compositions.
After finishing her biography, I began learning some of her repertoire - works that she premiered, arranged, or recorded, and works written for her. Many of these gems have become staples of my recital programs. At the end of my recent performance in Washington, DC, Leonard Slatkin commented, 'this music is wonderful! Maud Powell really was the female Fritz Kreisler." Had I thought more quickly, I should have responded, "Actually, Kreisler was the male Maud Powell." After all, Maud came first and was admired by Kreisler and all of his generation.
This album represents a slice of late Nineteenth/early Twentieth Century repertoire rarely heard these days. Miniature jewels like Humoreske, May Night, or Minute Waltz have an individual character that must be defined and demand a significant investment of the performer's personality. Slower melodic works, such as those by Venth, Huss, and Johnson, call for indulgence in expressive shifts and creative rubato. The tone-painting of Burleigh and Bauer still sounds fresh a century later, and the Sousa Airs and Caprice on Dixie are brilliant American alternatives to the usual Carmen Fantasies and Paganini Caprices.
I hope this recording will open your ears to some masterful compositions, beautiful arrangements, and the art of one of the greatest violinists ever. I also hope that through this CD, the forthcoming printed collection of Maud's music, the second edition of her biography, the reissues of her own recordings, and information posted on www.maudpowell.org, Maud Powell will finally receive the recognition she deserves as an artist and role model.
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
Although not a composer herself, Powell transcribed a good deal of other people's music for her own concert use. Much of Pine's Cedille recital consists of these arrangements -- salon music in the best sense of the word; also included are such attractive miniatures as Amy Beach's "Romance" and Carl Venth's "Aria." Pine, in partnership with pianist Matthew Hagle, plays them with a sensitivity and depth of expression Powell surely would have appreciated.
Russell Platt, The New Yorker
Powell was not only America's first world-class violinist but also an avatar for the kind of artistic values that today's young musicians are discovering for themselves. Diversity? She championed the works of female and African-American composers. Contemporary music? She was a pioneer, giving the U.S. premieres of the Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, and Sibelius concertos. Outreach? She practically invented it, tirelessly playing concerts in small-town recital halls. Pine's program consists mainly of little nuggets Powell favored, like Amy Beach's "Romance," Chopin's "Minute" Waltz, and Dvorák's "Humoreske." But they are attractive ones, each an excellent vehicle for Pine's nimble, expressive, and articulate style.
David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
DISC OF THE MONTH AUGUST 2007
With this new release, violinist Rachel Barton Pine and Cedille recall the glorious era of the headline-inducing violin recital, the art of the arrangement and transcription, and the thrill of virtuoso performance for its own sake. And yes, Pine's choice of music and her brilliant playing could serve as inspiration to a new generation of prospective string players. . . . Pine and her very able piano partner Matthew Hagle treat us to a true celebration of the violin in its several guises--as singer, percussionist, poet, and even humorist. . . . The sound is unfailingly vibrant and ideally balanced between violin and piano (not always an easy feat), allowing Pine's 1742 Guarneri violin to freely express itself. Highly recommended!
On this recording, the Chicago-based violinist (and "full disclosure" DePaul classmate) Rachel Barton Pine pays homage with a beautifully played program of works written for and transcribed by Powell. . . . Matthew Hagle provides superb piano accompaniment throughout, with a deep, rounded touch (which he appropriately abandons for Liebling's thundering bombast). Barton Pine combines a full romantic arsenal of sound with a judicious balance of elegance and fire. A lovely record.
Robert Maxham, Fanfare Magazine
Those who want to hear Powell play the bulk of these pieces can easily do so on Naxos, but nobody should be disappointed to hear Pine play them in richly detailed recorded sound, with the sympathetic support of Matthew Hagle. Pine has a way with this literature (she knows how and when to ease gently and subtly into a pitch or a dynamic mark) and, I'd guess, with miniatures in general'that seems to be something more vital than mere pastiche. The participation of Karen Shaffer, Powell's biographer, lends the package special interest. Strongly recommended to those who love the music of the period (including Danks's Silver Threads among the Gold), to those who revere Powell, and to listeners in general.
Robert Baxter, CourierPost (New Jersey)
In "American Virtuoso," Rachel Barton Pine may be the first violinist to pay hommage to Maud Powell, the first great American violinist (1867-1920). Barton Pine gathers a bouquet of short works popular during Powell's career (Cedille CDR 90000 097). This delectable disc features a range of music -- from Amy Beach's "Romance" to Massenet's "Twilight" -- that has disappeared from the repertory. To every selection, Barton Pine brings a full, generous tone and incisive musicianship. She takes these trifles seriously and performs them with flair. She plays Beach's "Romance" elegantly. But she also digs into Herman Bellstedt Jr.'s Caprice on "Dixie" with a blend of rhythmic verve and technical dazzle. Throughout, she receives fine support from her partner, pianist Matthew Hagle. Barton Pine makes an eloquent case for Henry Holden Huss' "Romance" in a heartfelt performance that catches the grave beauty of the music. She also revels in a transcription of Chopin's "Minute" Waltz.
Aaron Green, About.com
Violin enthusiasts and appreciators of fine music will find Rachel Barton Pine's American Virtuosa - Tribute to Maud Powell a wonderfully delightful and timeless classical music CD. With eighteen different pieces of music (all of which were part of Maud Powell's repertoire), the contrast between styles is highly enjoyable. American Virtuosa - Tribute to Maud Powell is a must have for any classical music collection.
to download the CD booklet.