Important recordings of music by Francis Poulenc:
COLUMBIA: Le Bestiaire; Mouvements Perpétuels; Les Biches; Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon.
JOHN POWELL was born in Richmond, Virginia, on September 6, 1882. His father, John Henry Powell, was the head of a large girl's school in Richmond, and his mother--the musical member of the family--was a descendant of Nicholas Lanier, court musician to Charles I, of England. With such parents it was inevitable that John Powell should move, as a child, in an atmosphere of refinement and culture. From earliest childhood, John interested himself in music. As a boy, he took piano lessons from his sister Mrs. J. S. Brockenbraugh and then, when he had made such progress that more expert instruction was necessary, he became a pupil of F. C. Hahr of Richmond. His progress with the piano was so rapid that it was decided, finally, to send him to Europe to complete his studies. In 1902, he left for Vienna where, as a pupil of Leschetizky, he graduated from the class of student into that of a mature artist. By 1907, Leschetizky--told Powell that he had nothing more to teach him, and in November of that year Powell made his debut as pianist with the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra. It was an enormously successful debut, and it inspired Powell to embark upon a tremendous concert-tour which brought him to Paris, London, the principal cities of Germany, and finally the United States. By the time he made his first American appearance as a virtuoso in Richmond in 1912, he was already recognized by the music world as one of the greatest pianists that America had produced.
But it was composition which attracted Powell most strongly, and it is as a composer that he has made his greatest reputation. In 1918, Powell produced his Negro Rhapsody for piano and orchestra, which he himself introduced under the baton of Walter Damrosch, and which attracted nation-wide intere est in him as a creator of importance. The Negro Rhapsody, as Daniel Francis Tovey has written, "is music, not political propaganda; but it will be soonest understood by those who, whether from personal knowledge of the composer or from capacity to recognize emotional values in music, manage to understand from the outset that this is not only an eminently romantic, but also a thoroly tragic piece."
With a number of important compositions for piano, as well as with such orchestral works as In Old Virginia, Natchez-on-the-Hill and Symphony, Powell has increased his prestige considerably since Negro Rhapsody. "He is significant for a number of reasons," John Tasker Howard informs us. "First, because he is an excellently equipped musician with something definite to say, and able to say it. Then because his music is prompted by a primal urge that makes it salty and vital, always alive. He is such an intense person himself, that his almost feverish temperament creeps into all that he writes--yet with some exquisitely lyric moments in between. And lastly, and possibly most important, his social and political creed makes him a nationalist, typical of the Anglo-Saxon Southern aristocracy, with fixed racial ideas that are thoroly apparent in his music. He is a prophet of the white South."
"One might write on indefinitely about the many-sidedness of Powell," --I am now quoting Daniel Gregory Mason--"about the expression his vigorous mind has found in social, political, and even scientific fields (such for example as astronomy); about his fearlessness as a critic of certain decadent modern tendencies; about his versatility as the composer of the popular Banjo Picker and of the epic Negro Rhapsody which he has played all over Europe with orchestras."
John Powell lives today in Richmond, Virginia. He still divides his time between concert-work as pianist and his composing. His greatest interest, as far as music is concerned, is in American music. "I believe thoroly in the dignity and worth of American folk- music," he writes. "I don't think it is reasonable to be ashamed of such tunes