Maud Powell

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Maud Powell
Maud Powell.jpg
Powell circa 1919
Born (1867-08-22)August 22, 1867
Peru, Illinois
Died January 8, 1920(1920-01-08) (aged 52)
Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Parent(s) William Bramwell Powell and Wilhelmina Bengelstraeter
Relatives John Wesley Powell, uncle

Maud Powell (August 22, 1867 – January 8, 1920) was an American violinist who gained international acclaim for her skill and virtuosity.[1]


Powell was born in Peru, Illinois. She was the first American violinist to achieve international rank. In 1986, Powell's biographer Karen A. Shaffer founded the Maud Powell Society for Music and Education to further knowledge of Powell and her significant role in music both in the United States and abroad.

Her mother was Wilhelmina "Minnie"[2] Bengelstraeter Powell, and her father was William Bramwell Powell. W.B. Powell authored numerous books[3] such as The Normal Course of Reading[4] and served as superintendent of Peru Elementary School District 124 from 1862 to 1870. She was also the niece of John Wesley Powell, an American Civil War hero and famed explorer of the Grand Canyon. Her uncle made his first scientific exploration of the Colorado River in 1869 when Maud was two years old.[2]

Around the age of 7, she began violin and piano lessons in Aurora, Illinois located in Kane County, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, Illinois.[5] She was soon recognized as a prodigy and at age 9 began four years of commuting to Chicago for piano study with Agnes Ingersoll and violin study with William Lewis.[6] When she was 13, her parents sold the family home to raise funds to continue her musical education. With her father remaining behind in rented rooms, she traveled with her mother and younger brother William to Europe.[5][6] There she studied under Henry Schradieck at the Leipzig Conservatoire, Charles Dancla at the Paris Conservatoire (after placing first in the entrance exam), and Joseph Joachim at the Berlin Hochschule, among others.[5][7] In 1885 she played Bruch's G minor concerto in her debut with the Berlin Philharmonic under Joachim's baton,[5] and again with the New York Philharmonic under Theodore Thomas after she returned to America.[2][6] She was premiered violin concertos by Tchaikovsky and Sibelius in America and premiered the Dvorak violin concerto in New York under the supervision of Dvorak himself. Powell was a powerful advocate for music by Americans, woman and black composers, including the Afro-English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Powell was a committed champion of the Sibelius Violin Concerto and played it into the repertoire.

On October 31, 1916, she performed in Ottawa, Illinois, on the occasion of the dedication of the Ottawa High School building.

On November 27, 1919 in St. Louis, Missouri, she collapsed on stage of a heart attack.[8] [9] On January 8, 1920 she died of another heart attack in Uniontown, Pennsylvania while on tour.[6]


Powell was the first instrumentalist to record for the Celebrity Artist Series of the Victor Talking Machine Company, starting in 1904 until 1919. With these recordings she set an enduring standard violin performance.[7]

In 2007, American violinist Rachel Barton Pine released a CD of music transcribed by, commissioned by or dedicated to Maud Powell.[9]

In 2009, Maud Powell Favorites, a 4-volume set of Powell's transcriptions and works commissioned by her or dedicated to her was published by the Maud Powell Society for Music and Education. The music was compiled by Karen A. Shaffer who wrote the extensive historical introduction and annotations while Rachel Barton Pine served as the music editor.[10][11]

Maud Powell was posthumously granted the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award on January 25, 2014 at the Recording Academy's 2014 Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception. The award was accepted on behalf of Powell by biographer Karen A. Shaffer and Rachel Barton Pine.[12]


  • American Virtuosa: Tribute to Maud Powell. Rachel Barton Pine (violin), Matthew Hagle (piano). Cedille Records, 2006: CDR 90000 097[9]
  • Powell, Maud: Complete Recordings, Vol. 1 (1904-1917). Naxos Records, 2001: 8.110961[13]
  • Powell, Maud: Complete Recordings, Vol. 2 (1904-1917). Naxos Records, 2001: 8.110962[14]
  • Powell, Maud: Complete Recordings, Vol. 3 (1904-1917). Naxos Records, 2001: 8.110963[15]
  • Powell, Maud: Complete Recordings, Vol. 4 (1904-1917). Naxos Records, 2004: 8.110993[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Maud Powell, The Violinist, Is Dead. One of Greatest Native Musicians Suffers Nervous Breakdown at 51 [sic] Years. Displayed Gift As Child. Won Her First American Triumph In 1885 After Study Under European Masters". New York Times. January 9, 1920. Retrieved 2014-01-09. Maud Powell, the violinist, died in a hotel here today. She suffered a nervous breakdown yesterday and became so ill that her concert last night was canceled. On Thanksgiving night she collapsed on the stage during her concert in St. Louis. For twenty-four hours she was said to be dangerously ill, but she recovered and continued her tour. The illness was reported as acute gastritis at that time. ... 
  2. ^ a b c Shaffer, K. A. (2004). "Life & Career Timeline". The Maud Powell Society. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  3. ^ Works by William Bramwell Powell in Google Books
  4. ^ Search Google Books for The Normal Course of Reading by Powell
  5. ^ a b c d Shaffer, K. A. (2013-12-20). "A lifetime of achievements: pioneering American violinist Maud Powell". The Strad. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  6. ^ a b c d Furry, W. (July–August 2004). "The pearl of Peru". Illinois Heritage. Illinois State Historical Society. 7 (4): 18. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  7. ^ a b Shaffer, K. A. (1995). "Maud Powell, a Pioneer's Legacy". The Maud Powell Signature, Women in Music. The Maud Powell Society. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  8. ^ "Maude Powell Better". New York Times. November 29, 1919. Retrieved 2015-06-08. 
  9. ^ a b c Shaffer, Karen A. "Liner Notes Essay for American Virtuosa: Tribute to Maud Powell". Rachel Barton Pine discography. Retrieved 2010-06-02. 
  10. ^ "Maud Powell Favorites". Maud Powell Society web site. The Maud Powell Society for Women in Music. 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-02. 
  11. ^ Niles, Laurie (2010-05-10). "Rachel Barton Pine's Maud Powell Favorites". blogs. Retrieved 2010-06-02. 
  12. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Award: Maud Powell". GRAMMY News. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  13. ^ Shaffer, Karen A. "Liner Notes Essay for Powell, Maud: Complete Recordings, Vol. 1". Naxos. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  14. ^ Shaffer, K. A. "Liner Notes Essay for Powell, Maud: Complete Recordings, Vol. 2". Naxos. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  15. ^ Shaffer, K. A. "Liner Notes Essay for Powell, Maud: Complete Recordings, Vol. 3". Naxos. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  16. ^ Shaffer, K. A. "Liner Notes Essay for Powell, Maud: Complete Recordings, Vol. 4". Naxos. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 

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