CONTEMPORARY

MUSICIANS ASSOCIATED WITH

MAUD POWELL

This page features some musicians with whom Maud Powell performed or whom she otherwise knew personally.

 

 

 
  VIOLINISTS
  Camilla Urso (1840 - 1902)

Camilla Urso appeared in Maud's hometown of Aurora, Illinois, about 1874 when Maud was about seven years old. She became Maud's inspiration: "She first showed me what it was I wanted to do - what all my crude scrapings might become." Urso advised her never to marry as it would interfere with her career. At nine years old, Urso became the first female student admitted to the Paris Conservatoire in 1849. When she was still a child, her family emigrated to the United States where Urso concertized extensively, upholding high standards of musicianship and programming and breaking down barriers in the profession for all the women violinists that came after her.

 
William Lewis
(1836 - 1902)

William Lewis was a well-known soloist, chamber musician and violin shop owner in Chicago when Maud became his pupil at the age of nine. She studied with him four years and later claimed that she "owed the most" to him. Maud described him as a "natural player, a born genius", and as an "unfettered" player, without much refinement of technique, but extremely "rugged." She once said: "To William Lewis, a man of genius who played the fiddle because he couldn't help it, I owe much of my vigor and freedom of style. Nor was I obliged to undo or remodel habits or methods when I went abroad." He introduced her to a wide-range of music reflecting his catholicity of taste.

 
Henry Schradieck
(1846 - 1918)

Henry Schradieck was Maud Powell's teacher at the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany in 1881-1882. Schradieck, whose playing blended the German and Franco-Belgian traditions, was concertmaster of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and taught ensemble classes. The students believed that he knew practically all the Beethoven quartets by heart and was capable of conducting from memory all of the Beethoven symphonies. Maud said that in Germany she learned to become a musician. After the final examinations, Schradieck reported: "Miss Powell not only has an extraordinary talent but also the highest degree of aspiration and application, and therefore the progress she has made in the one year of her studies here is really surprising." He emigrated to the United States and became a faculty member of several conservatories. He never missed an opportunity to attend one of Maud's concerts.

 
Charles Dancia
(1818 - 1907)

Charles Dancla, the primary exemplar of the French school of violin playing, became Maud's teacher during her six months of study at the Paris Conservatoire in 1882-1883. She was chosen first among 88 applicants for six vacancies in the violin classes. Hearing her, Dancla excitedly broke tradition by sending her a note in advance of the official notification of the results of the entrance examinations. He taught her privately as well. Maud remembered: "Dancla was inspiring....He showed me how to develop purity of style....Without ever neglecting technical means, Dancla always put the purely musical before the purely virtuoso side of playing. He was unsparing in taking pains and very fair....He taught me how to become an artist...." Of all her European masters, Maud said that Dancla was "unquestionably the greatest as a teacher."

 
Joseph Joachim
(1831 - 1907)

Joseph Joachim called Maud Powell "my little American cousin" when he heard the legend of her Hungarian ancestry. He felt their kinship in the temperamental quality of her playing. Joachim was renowned as an interpreter of music by Beethoven and Bach. As soloist with orchestra and in recital and as leader of the Joachim String Quartet, Joachim was considered one of the greatest violinists of the 19 th century. He said Maud was an "embryo artist" when he first heard her in London in 1884 and invited her to study with him at the Berlin Hochschule. Maud studied with him in Berlin in 1884-1885 and made her debut performing Max Bruch's violin concerto in G minor with the Berlin Philharmonic under Joachim's baton in March 1885.

 
Wilma Norman Neruda (Lady Halle
) (1839 - 1911)

Considered by Joachim to be his equal, Lady Hallé was an early female role model for Maud. She often led the quartet at the Monday Popular Concerts in London, alternating with Joachim. Maud met and heard Lady Hallé perform in London where Maud spent a year (1883-84) concertizing between her studies in Paris and Berlin. Born into the Neruda family of musicians, Wilma Norman Neruda gained renown as a virtuoso throughout Europe. She toured the United States in 1898-1899.

 
Eugene Ysaye
(1858 - 1931)

Music critics often compared Maud Powell's playing with that of the great Belgian violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe. Maud attended his concerts, as he did hers, and described one this way: "He did many things well, and I listened critically, approving intellectually, you understand. At last he played the Beethoven violin concerto. This ceased to be excellent, it became perfect, it was pure religion. I could not criticize; I wept. Musicians around me wept, and old orchestra players, worn out with musical routine, worn out emotionally, I mean, wept as well. I could have done nothing that was not good after listening to that." Ysaÿe toured North America as well as Europe and even became conductor of the Cincinnati Orchestra for a time. He is especially well-known now for his compositions for solo violin and the many great violinists he taught.

 
Fritz Kreisler
(1875 - 1962)

In America, music critics dubbed Fritz Kreisler the "King" and Maud Powell the "Queen" of violinists, reflecting their artistic excellence and popularity among classical music audiences. Born in Vienna, Kreisler had a natural affinity for the violin and piano. He toured the United States as a prodigy in 1889 when Maud Powell may have first met him. He did not return to the United States until 1900. His violin encore compositions and transcriptions soon became audience favorites. Maud Powell included them in her recital programs. The two violinists admired each other (he called her a "brother artist") and attended each other's concerts.

 
Louis Kaufman
(1905 - 1994)

The American violinist Louis Kaufman wrote that his career was made possible by "the good advice of Maud Powell, who had graciously listened to me after one of her Portland concerts." Maud told his father that he "had talent but was poorly trained." "I always appreciated the honesty and frankness of Maud Powell towards my efforts and she strongly urged my father to send me to New York as soon as possible for serious study," he recalled. Kaufman studied with Franz Kneisel at the Institute of Musical Art (later Juilliard) and became a noted soloist with orchestras in Hollywood and around the world, making the first recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons which won France's Grand Prix du Disque in 1950. He won the Naumburg award in 1928, launching his career as a violin soloist. He toured extensively as violist of the Musical Art Quartet (1926-33) and in recital with his wife, the pianist Annette Leibole. He remembered Maud Powell's "tall, statuesque appearance" in his native Portland. "Her tone was very bright and clear. I was impressed by her dash and brilliance. There was no trace of a dull academic approach.... I remember her impeccable intonation, an unusual control of the left hand and a supple and powerful bow arm...." For the story of Louis' life, read A Fiddler's Tale , by Louis Kaufman with Annette Kaufman, (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2003).

 
Jasha Heifetz
(1901 - 1987)

Maud Powell attended the Russian violinist Jascha Heifetz's debut recital in Carnegie Hall, New York, on October 27, 1917. A reporter noted that "No one...seemed more transported than Maud Powell, who stayed to applaud frantically till the very last encore." Maud reputedly remarked: "He has a peach of a down-bow staccato!" In an interview, Maud talked about Heifetz's art:"Violin players today, generally speaking, group them-selves in two classes, or schools.... One...is based on the theory that the performer of the music is of greater importance than the music itself.... The principles of the other class are founded in the belief that the power of the best music infinitely transcends the boldest flights of the virtuoso- that the function of the artist is purely interpretative: that the best he can do is to mirror faithfully the spiritual content of the music he plays....One depends for effect upon personal display, the other upon musicianship plus vision. In the latter category are the world's greatest violinists, among whom, if I may judge by a single hearing, we shall include today Jascha Heifetz. All that Heifetz does apparently shows that he is more concerned with music than with his own self-exploitation. His tremendous vogue is due to sincerity of spirit joined to extraordinary ability." Heifetz never heard Maud Powell perform but he soon came to understand her contribution to America's cultural life. In 1979, Heifetz wrote: "Maud Powell's name is well known to me and believe it or not, my students know who she was and what she stood for."

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