Maud Powell was somewhat similar to Mary MacLeod Bethune, both being women who defied convention, society, and gender stereotypes to achieve well above the lot of mortals. Where Bethune worked in the educational field, Powell chose the life of an aesthete, dedicating her life totally to music, the violin, and classical music. She was highly respected and carried with her a sense of patriotism unusual to artists—not in the usual political/martial spirit but in the notion of fidelity to countrymen and their achievements on the world stage.
Rachel Barton Pine is well esteemed in our own time—though, indeed, unless you're a classicalist devotee, you'll probably never hear of her. Nonetheless, a very respected spectrum of aficionados shower with praise, from Fanfare to ClassicsToday.com to the New York Times to the Chicago Tribune to…gasp!…Playboy. Listening to this CD, it's not hard to discern why: her executons are extraordinarily smooth, her tone perfect, and her inflections highly considered. However, the material here, as I suspect is in line with the selections in much of Pine's chosen repertoire (Cedille has published at least 7 of her compendiums, this one included), is going to appeal to purists only, so evanescent and orthodox is it.
Powell didn't compose and, as far as can be told here, neither does Pine, so she's chosen works the former cherished, bringing them to sparkling life, though within their own terms, which do not extend as far as many contemporary listeners might desire. Along with Dvorak, Chopin, and others are massed a number of American composers few reading this journal will know of: Marion Eugenie Bauer, Herman Bellstedt, Jr., etc. all penning opuses in traditional airs and measures. On certain songs, though, such as Bauer's Up the Ocklawah, Pine's passion breaks momentarily through, pulsing with fire. Mostly, however, this is material for lace doilies, genteel drawing chambers, and soirees with the Uppa Crust.
With her accompanist Matthew Hagle (piano), it sometimes takes the breath away that there are only two musicians present, so fulsome and expansive can the performances be, but don't go into this release expecting even the vaguest shadow of a Paul Giger, Gidon Kremer, or Thomas Zehetmair—hell, not even a Jean-Luc Ponty!—though I suspect each and every one of them will hang on every dulcet note Pine produces. American Vistuosa is strictly for anachronists, albeit dinosaurs with exquisite tastes and refinement…and the CD's a very generous 78 minutes long, so there's lots of room to wallow.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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