Friday, December 9, 2011

Patricia Travers

Patricia Travers was an American violinist and actress born (in Clifton, New Jersey) on December 5, 1927.  She is known for having given up her professional career entirely and dropping from sight in 1951, still in her early twenties.  She is also known for having owned the Tom Taylor Stradivarius (1732), the violin Joshua Bell used to play.  That violin was sold to a collector in 1954, three years after she retired.  It is now being played by Mark Steinberg, first violinist of the Brentano Quartet.  She also played a 1733 Guarneri violin.  Travers died only recently.  She began studying the violin before the age of 4.  Her teachers were Jacques Gordon (concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony for almost a decade and teacher at the Eastman School of Music) and Hans Letz (pupil of Joseph Joachim and concertmaster of the Theodore Thomas Orchestra for a time.  Letz believed, as did Bronislaw Huberman and Frans Bruggen, that Rhythm was the most important element in music.  He also taught at Juilliard.)  A single source says that Travers also attended the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.  Her first public performance was at age 6.  She gave her first Carnegie Hall recital in 1938, at age 9.  She appeared with the New York Philharmonic on July 6, 1939, playing Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol.  She was 11 years old.  Two years later, she appeared in the movie There’s Magic In Music (1941.)  Here is a YouTube video showing her playing in the movie.  Finnish violinist Heimo Haitto also took part in that movie - he was 18 years old at the time.  Travers had a very promising and active career going and played with most major American and European orchestras from age 10 onward, including the orchestras of Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston, London and Berlin.  She also recorded several discs, one of them being the first recording of Charles Ives’ second violin sonata.  Joan Field had been the first to record the first Ives violin sonata.  People have taken wild guesses as to why Travers suddenly stopped playing.  She did not suffer a nervous breakdown as did Josef Hassid.  It is not an easy thing to stop doing something one truly enjoys.  If she had felt fulfilled, successful, or happy as a performer, she would not have stopped playing.  Approval from her audiences and critics would have been enough to keep her going.  An early article (1939) in a music journal stated the following: “We feel sure that the prophecy that Patricia Travers is to become known as one of the great women violinists will be fully realized.”  Toward the end, after a performance in Boston (1951), a critic wrote “…she is not yet either a brilliant technician or a compelling interpreter.”   What may have contributed to her decision to stop was that the economic motive to keep working was not there – she came from a well-to-do family.  It’s the old push-pull theory at work - in order for a person to move forward, there must be a push from within and a pull from without.  Some sources say she devoted the last six decades of her life to helping run her family’s business interests – similar to what Iso Briselli did, except he stopped playing much later in life.  As far as I know, she never had any students.  Patricia Travers died on February 9, 2010, at age 82. 

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