Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Violinist Who Vanished

Patricia Travers
There have always been creative artists who reach a point in their careers and say, "Enough."  One thinks of Sibelius, who effectively quit composing 25 years before his long life ended, or of Glenn Gould, who at age 31 gave up public performances to concentrate on recording.  But the case of Patricia Travers (1927-2010) is perhaps the strangest of all.  (The catchy, alliterative title I have given this post didn't originate with me; it was borrowed from the New York Times obituary of Ms. Travers.)  Raised as a child prodigy, she concertized actively until the age of 23, when she decided to give it all up, shortly after making this recording:

Ives: Violin Sonata No. 2* and
Sessions: Duo for Violin and Piano**
Patricia Travers, violin; Otto Herz, piano
Recorded *April 17 and **September 19, 1950
Columbia Masterworks ML-2169, one ten-inch LP record
Link (FLAC files, 82.37 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 47.15 MB)

That her retirement from public life was an incalculable loss to music is obvious from this recording, for both works receive passionate, committed performances - and it's ironic that one of the composers represented should be Ives, who, though still alive at the time, had not himself composed anything new for over twenty years.

Patricia Travers did make one more recording, in 1952, when she teamed with Norman Dello Joio, accompanying her at the piano for his "Variations and Capriccio" on one side of another Columbia LP (the other side featured works by Paul Bowles).  I am sorry to say I don't have that one.


  1. Deanna Durbin is another - she gave up making movies at 27 and lived to be 91.

    Many thanks for *another* Ives sonata - can't have too many.

    Were the two works both recorded on both dates or do you know which is which?

    (I ask because the later date is just 6 days before I was born...)

  2. Ah, but Deanna got married and raised a family - and in those days it was expected for a woman to quit her career upon doing so. Patricia had no such "excuse."

    The Ives was recorded in April, the Sessions in September. (Sorry, should have been clearer about that.)

  3. True, but it was her *third* marriage and she made quitting Holltywood a condition of marrying.

    Thanks for the date info.

  4. What a find, Bryan, thank you!

    I never knew this record existed. A pity Ms. Travers recorded so little. She really digs in to the 'Americana' elements underneath and intertwined in Ives' thorny writing.

    It is good to remember how seriously Columbia promoted modern music in the early days of the LP.

    1. Hi Bill, glad you enjoyed it - especially as you've enriched our experiences with quite a few early Ives recordings yourself!