The Music Column

Come Into the Garden, Maud

A year after the American debut of Jascha Heifetz in 1917, James Huneker wrote an interesting sentence in the New York Times: “Much has been said of Heifetz and his musical gifts compared with great violinists of the time—Ysayë, Kreisler, Elman, Zimbalist, Kubelik, and Maud Powell.”  We notice that one of these great violinists is referred to by both her first and last names, that she is the only female, and the only one born in America.  She kept remarkable company on such a list, but there is evidence to suggest that she was even more distinguished than Huneker thought.

Jan Kubelik’s name is not at all as famous today as it was, and Efrem Zimbalist’s name has been rather eclipsed by that of his son on television some decades ago.  But Maud Powell?  Though she died in 1920 at the age of 52, her name was remembered well enough for her to have won a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 2014—nearly a century after Huneker’s recognition.  Yet that memory itself has been a result of 35 years of assiduous work by Karen A. Shaffer, president of the Maud Powell Society for Music and Education and author of the biography published in 1988 (Maud Powell: Pioneer American Violinist, now being...

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