Friday, January 6, 2012

Ruth Posselt

Ruth Posselt (Ruth Pierce Posselt Burgin) was an American violinist and teacher born (in Medford, Massachusetts) on September 6, 1914.  She is best remembered as the wife of Richard Burgin, concertmaster of the Boston Symphony for 42 years, and for premiering several contemporary violin concertos – those by Edward Hill (1939), Walter Piston (1940), Paul Hindemith (1941), and Vernon Duke (1943.)  Although these works are probably worth listening to at least once, nobody plays them anymore.  She also premiered Aaron Copland’s sonata in 1944.  Copland was her accompanist.  Having begun violin lessons at age 3, she made her public debut in Boston at the age of six, afterwards studying with Emmanuel Ondricek, pupil of Eugene Ysaye.  Her recital debuts at Carnegie Hall in 1923 and Symphony Hall (Boston) were followed by a debut in New York in 1928 under Walter Damrosch (with the New York Philharmonic), playing the Tchaikovsky concerto.  She was 14 years old.  She studied with Jacques Thibaud in Paris later on and she toured throughout Europe and the U.S. afterward.   She first toured the U.S. in 1935, playing with all of the major orchestras.  She played in the White House for President and Mrs. Roosevelt in 1937.  In 1940, she married Burgin and made Boston her home.  She was 25 years old.  She again played, at age 29, with the New York Philharmonic on January 1, 1944, playing the Duke concerto.  She did not appear with this orchestra ever again.  With the Boston Symphony, she appeared more than 60 times.  Her last tour of Europe took place in 1949.  Thereafter, she only worked in the U.S.  In 1958 she formed a duo with pianist Luise Vosgerchian (one of Yo-Yo Ma’s teachers at Harvard.)  She moved to Florida when Burgin retired from the Boston Symphony and then taught at Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida) from 1963 to 1978, where he was also a teacher.  She also played in the Florestan Quartet which Burgin formed after coming to Florida.  As far as I know, she never recorded commercially although there are a few live performance recordings available.  YouTube has a very short snippet of audio of a live performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto on its site which is so short it’s almost not worth mentioning.  According to a usually reliable source, she played a Giovanni Pressenda violin constructed in 1844.  Rudolf Koelman plays a Pressenda violin too but his is from 1829.  Posselt died on February 19, 2007, at age 92.

6 comments:

  1. This is violinist profile number 275. Only 25 spaces left.

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  2. This is a very important work. Go on !

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  3. Ruth Posselt and Richard Burgin had two children - one is a writer and the other a linguist. For the sake of brevity, an abundance of personal details must be left out of these mini profiles.

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  4. LA MAR: I will keep writing as many more as I can. I like researching the lives of interesting and significant but forgotten violinists. Thanks for reading.

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  5. Dear violinhunter,
    When you state that Ruth Posselt is best remembered as the wife of Boston Symphony’s longtime concertmaster R. Burgin, you diminish her vast accomplishments and stature as a world-renowned virtuoso violinist. Already in your opening statement you rush to belittle her, pronouncing that she is best remembered as somebody’s wife. Your misogynistic attitude extends also to your statement about nobody playing the concertos she premiered. For your information, the Piston Concerto #1 (which Posselt premiered in 1940 at Carnegie Hall) has been performed (and/or recorded) by James Buswell, Louis Kaufman, and most recently, just 10 months ago, on March 29, 2011, by Miranda Cuckson, at Carnegie Hall. The Hindemith Concerto has been performed and/or recorded by Isaac Stern, David Oistrakh, Gidon Kremer, Ivry Gitlis, Joseph Fuchs, Leonidas Kavakos, Dene Olding, Joaquin Palomares, Cyrus Forough, Norman Carol, Heather Brown, Charles Rex, among others. On top of sounding ignorant about all this, you also come out as if blaming the premiering performer Ruth Posselt for the (perceived by you) lack of popularity of several violin concertos that you specifically name as not being performed by anyone anymore. As we all know, Heifetz premiered plenty of concertos that are rarely, if ever played, but did you point that out in the story you wrote about him? Is it only women violinists you hold responsible? Instead of dropping ugly hints like: “she did not appear with this orchestra ever again”, why don’t you quote some reputable sources, such as music critic Jonathan Woolf who calls Ruth Posselt “an exceptional exponent of the American violin school”, and “an important figure in American music-making life” (he also has, unlike you, her birth year correctly stated).

    Over her long career, which started in 1918 when she gave her first recital in Boston as a Wunderkind at the age of 6, until 1975 when she performed as a soloist with orchestra for the last time, Ruth Posselt (1911-2007) appeared with all the major US orchestras, including a record 64 appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (in Boston, New York and other cities) under Koussevitzky, Munch, and Leinsdorf (as well as Burgin, the associate conductor). After making her orchestra debut with the New York Philharmonic under Walter Damrosch in 1928, she made a transcontinental tour in 1930-31 (which is contrary to your false statement that she first toured the US in 1935). From 1932-1935, she concertized in Europe (Holland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia) and the Soviet Union. After Heifetz she was the first American violinist to tour the Soviet Union and unlike Heifetz who played in Moscow and Leningrad only, she played also in Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, Saratov, Engels. In the 1950’s she performed with the Bel Arte Trio (which recorded for Decca – check out DECCA DL-9659), taught at the New England Conservatory, Wellesley College, the Berkshire Music Center and in the Music School of Florida State University, where she finished her illustrious career as Professor of Music and member of the Florestan Quartet.

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  6. um bom dia tenho um disco de ruth posselt com o titulo boston symphony n. c ruth posselt em 33 rpm . e. lalo sinfonia espanhola - primeiro movimento , - solista ruth posselt o disco de uma ponta a outra tem 40 centímetros sendo ele maior que os normal , infelizmente não seu o ano do vinil ele encontra-se fixado em um quadro de parede peça esta acredito que seu proprietário já conhecia sua raridade

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