Sunday, March 7, 2010

Deceased--Patricia Travers

Patricia Travers
December 5th, 1927 to February 9th, 2010

Such are the vagaries of life...some of the species are outstanding intellectuals and creative artists and develop their abilities at a very early age. They rocket into success and fame and some like Patricia Travers reach an apex and cease cultivating their talents while others like Judit Polgár [Grandmaster chess player at the age of 15 years], Saul Kripke [respected American philosopher who at the age of six taught himself Ancient Hebrew], and most notably Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [who composed music at the age of five] somehow find a balance in life and continue their talents. No one will know why Patricia Travers suddenly ceased her work.

"Patricia Travers, Violinist Who Vanished, Dies at 82"


Margalit Fox

March 7th, 2010

The New York Times

At 11, the violinist Patricia Travers made her first solo appearance with the New York Philharmonic, playing Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole” with “a purity of tone, breadth of line and immersion in her task,” as a critic for The New York Times wrote in 1939.

At 13, she appeared in “There’s Magic in Music,” a Hollywood comedy set in a music camp. Released in 1941 and starring Allan Jones, the film features Patricia, chosen by audition from hundreds of child performers, playing with passionate intensity.

In her early 20s, for the Columbia label, she made the first complete recording of Charles Ives’s Sonata No.2 for Violin and Piano, a modern American work requiring a mature musical intelligence.

Not long afterward, she disappeared.

Between the ages of 10 and 23, Ms. Travers appeared with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the New York, London and Berlin Philharmonics and the Boston and Chicago Symphonies. She performed on national radio broadcasts, gave premieres of music written expressly for her and made several well-received records.

Then ... nothing, a six-decade-long silence that lasted from the early 1950s until Ms. Travers’s death on Feb. 9 at 82. Her death, of cancer, in a Montclair, N.J., nursing home, was confirmed by her lawyer, John Sullivan. Ms. Travers, who never married, leaves no immediate survivors.

Ms. Travers disappeared by hiding in plain sight, living quietly with her parents in the house in Clifton, N.J., in which she had grown up. She remained there till well past middle age, through the death of her father in the 1980s and her mother in 1995. Afterward, she moved to a condominium nearby.

By all accounts, Ms. Travers rarely spoke of her career. As her obituary last month in The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported, neighbors knew her only as the reserved owner and manager of a commercial property in Clifton she had inherited from her parents.

Why Ms. Travers gave up the violin will never be fully known. But it is possible to make an educated guess, based on old newspaper accounts of her career (reading between the lines), and on the work of contemporary psychologists who study gifted children.

As psychologists have found, a prodigy’s life is defined by a particular narrative arc — one that often ends, as Ms. Travers’s did, with early promise unfulfilled.

“Prodigies are much less likely to go on to become major famous creative geniuses than they are to become unheard-of and drop out,” Ellen Winner, a professor of psychology at Boston College, said in a telephone interview on Friday. “What it takes to become a prodigy is very different from what it takes to become a major creative adult.” She added, “Most do not make that leap.”

An only child, Patricia Travers was born in Clifton on Dec. 5, 1927. (The year is often given erroneously as 1928; it was common then for prodigies to be billed as younger than they really were.) Her father, Samuel, was a lawyer, semiprofessional singer and accomplished violin maker. Her mother, the former Veronica Quinlan, is described in some accounts as having been an amateur pianist.

Patricia began violin lessons at 3 1/2, eventually studying with the violinists Jacques Gordon and Hans Letz. At 6, she gave her first public concert, at Music Mountain, the summer chamber music festival in Falls Village, Conn. At 10, she performed on national radio with the Detroit Symphony under John Barbirolli.

At 11, Patricia was already playing a violin made by Guarneri del Gesù; before she was out of her teens, she also had a Stradivarius.

One of the few people alive who performed with Ms. Travers then is Lorin Maazel, who stepped down last year as music director of the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Maazel, who turned 80 on Saturday, led the Pittsburgh Symphony several times as a child conductor, with Ms. Travers as the child soloist.

“Patricia was a soulful artist, mature and poised,” Mr. Maazel wrote from Europe in a recent e-mail message. “One didn’t think of her as a child prodigy.”

If the young Ms. Travers was “reticent and somewhat withdrawn,” as Mr. Maazel recalled, onstage she came alive with a fire that drew praise from most critics. Writing in 1939, when she was 11, the journal Violins and Violinists rhapsodized, “We feel sure that the prophecy that Patricia Travers is to become known as one of the great women violinists will be fully realized.”

But with such prophecies comes great pressure, and many prodigies eventually undergo a psychological crisis. “It hits at adolescence,” said Professor Winner, the author of “Gifted Children: Myths and Realities” (Basic Books, 1996). “That’s when they say: ‘Who am I doing this for? My parents or me?’ ”

At that point, prodigies often stop playing. Ms. Travers, however, appeared to make it through her teenage years. She became a specialist in modern American music at a time when few performers gave it much thought. She recorded work by Ives, Roger Sessions and Norman Dello Joio. In 1947, at Carnegie Hall, she gave the premiere of “Incantation and Dance,” written for her by the Hawaiian-born composer Dai-Keong Lee.

But when she was in her early 20s, her notices, once glowing, grew more measured. In 1951 The Christian Science Monitor reviewed a performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto by Ms. Travers, then 23, with the Boston Symphony:

“Miss Travers at present appears to be in an intermediate position between two extremes,” the review said. “On the one hand her foundational studies are well in the past; she is obviously a professional who is competing very well among her peers. On the other hand she is not yet either a brilliant technician nor a compelling interpreter.”

The Boston engagement appeared to have been her last with a major orchestra. “She gradually dropped from sight,” Mr. Maazel recalled. “Don’t know why. Probably, as happens in most early-career artists, she just lost motivation and perhaps went in quest of the proverbial lost childhood.”

Ms. Travers’s Strad and Guarneri passed to other hands long ago. At her death, she had just one violin left — not a valuable one, her lawyer, Mr. Sullivan, remembered her saying.

The only person for whom Ms. Travers seems to have played as she grew older, he said, was her mother.

An earlier version of this article misspelled the Guarneri family name as Guarnari.

"Violinist Patricia Travers, 1928-2010"

Violinists: Does anyone know this violinist, who recently died? Famous in the 1940s, then disappeared. She played same Strad as Josh Bell once did.


Laurie Niles

February 15th, 2010

A reporter called me because he was trying to find information on the violinist Patricia Travers, who was born in 1928 and died this Feb. 9. Apparently she was a child prodigy who was quite famous in the 1940s and even made an appearance in the movie "There's Magic in Music." She also played and owned the Tom Taylor Strad, which is also the instrument that Josh Bell played on for so many years before he bought his own.

Here is what a Youtube video said:

"Patricia Travers was born in Clifton, New Jersey, the daughter of a well-to-do family. Her father, a successful attorney, was also an amateur violin maker, and he gave Patricia a 1/4 size violin on her third birthday. She was a quick study, and at age six, she gave her first concert. She became well-known locally, and her success earned her an appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1938 - at the age of nine. Her success spread nationwide after that, and it earned her several concert appearances."

In 1940, Paramount signed her to appear in the film "There's Magic in Music." The film itself achieved modest results, but it showcased her talents for millions to see and served as a springboard for her career. Travers was originally signed to simply perform a violin work (an arrangement of Anton Rubinstein's Romance in E flat), but the director found out that she was also a good actress, and her deadpan wisecracking upstaged even the established adults. As a result, she won acclaim from even the toughest critics.

Good actress or not, Travers was first and foremost a violinist, and her family turned down requests to appear in more movies. For the next eleven years, the petite, curly-haired young girl had a full schedule of concert appearances, performing as often as 100 times per year. To ensure that she got a reasonable education, she was accompanied by a private tutor, and often also by her mother Veronica. Travers was not only a prodigal musician far beyond her years; she was considered a fine violinist, regardless of age or gender. She may have been a young girl in appearance, but she was an accomplished musician, and her performances were considered as good as those of concert violinists many times her age. There exists, in newspaper archives and elsewhere, a solid record of concert appearances from 1941 until late 1951, including at least 60 with symphony orchestras.

After that, Travers literally vanished. At some point in time, probably in early 1952, she decided to stop performing. The reason for this is unknown. No record exists of her marrying, and no record exists as to what she did thereafter. Her famous violin, the "Tom Taylor", was sold in 1954 to a benefactor who gave it to a California university. Other than that, there is no further newspaper activity about her, nor has there been a "whatever happened to" or "where is this person today" article. For the past 55 years, Travers has ceased to exist in the public eye, although her whereabouts are known. The best guess is that she took the route Greta Garbo and Deana Durbin did and simply decided to have no more to do with it."

Arthur Rubenstein's "Romance"

There’s Magic in Music



Anonymous said...

Patricia Travers was a great violinist. The cause of dropping out of sight remains a mystery to this day. Travers is with the Lord.

Tom Barrister said...

I spoke to Travers in 2007. She told me that she retired in 1951 to help her parents with their business interests.