Maud Powell Interviewed
The violinist Gives to Musical Courier Representative Interesting Views on Audiences
and What They Like Best -- Also Discusses New Music Faults--
Musical Courier, September 16, 1914
Maud Powell possesses that prime indication of true greatness: absolute modesty and a dislike for talking about herself. She was seen recently by a representative of the Musical Courier in her beautiful studio in the art centre of New York which clusters about Gramercy Park, and she talked of music, of art, of architecture, entertainingly, instructively, brilliantly, showing not only the thoroughness of her knowledge of, but the depth of her insight into, music and all of its allied arts. But herself she passed over with a word.
Her tour? Certainly, it was to begin early – October 12 – as it always does, and continue, as usual, far into the late spring. It would take her from coast to coast, from North to South. Her bookings were made long ago and complete early enough to admit of herself and husband, who is also her manager, taking a long rest in their favorite playground, the White Mountains.
“Yes,” said Mme. Powell, “I play everywhere, from the largest cities in the smallest towns. My programs? No, I never suit them to any particular audience. I never ‘play down to the public taste.’ The American public is the most discriminating and the most grateful that it is possible to imagine. I have noticed, however, that American audiences do not care for long introspective things. Some sort of poetic or dramatic point is necessary--the music must paint a picture.
“And then, I think the matter of a form that is easily felt is of great importance. These long-winded things that wander on and on and never seem to get anywhere are dreadful! I feel that way about them myself and the average American audience certainly feels the same.
“That is one of the troubles with much of the new music that is sent me to try--either that, or a forced attempt at lightness and popularity which ends in triviality. Sometimes these things sound nice when you first hear them, but their charm soon wears off. It is so terribly difficult to write anything that is pleasing and yet has the true classic ring; and it is no less difficult to write things possessing true depth and are not merely gloomy, sombre and tiresome.
“No, in America one need never ‘play down to any audience,’ not even in the far outlying regions of the West. I play Bach violin and piano sonatas for mixed audiences out in those regions, and I can tell from the attitude of attention that such works as these are thoroughly appreciated.
“What people demand is form, rhythm, melodic line. They do not like popular things and anyone who attempts to play such things will fail.
“You think it strange that anyone in these modern days should speak in favor of form? Well, but even the moderns, the best of them, possess that instinct of perfect balance which is the true foundation of form. Those who profess to have a contempt for it are generally merely ignorant. They are lacking in that feeling for architectural outline which comes with perfect knowledge and they excuse themselves by a pretended contempt for it.
“It is this that I like so much in Sibelius. With all his rugged strength and independence he always possesses that complete balance, that perfect architectural outline, which renders his music so lucid. I love his concerto; its strong, rugged themes, its wonderfully direct appeal, its modernism and yet withal its complete simplicity of thought and structure. It was a joy to me to introduce this concerto in America and I play it every year with unflagging interest. It grows on one.
“I had a delightful meeting with Sibelius at the Norfolk Festival, where some of his new compositions were played. I am planning to play some new works by him this season, partly arranged by myself.
“I have just come down from the White Mountains, Whitefield, and am glad to get to work again, although I had a delightful time there planning our new home there. Oh! Yes, we planned it ourselves and the builders are at work on it now. It is up on the hillside--not right on top of the hill for I like to leave some impression to be gained by going beyond the confines of the home grounds. To live constantly with the best view only destroys its greatest value – its power to surprise."