Arachnophonia: Amanda Maier

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record(s) for the item(s) in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Librarian Dr. Linda Fairtile and features Amanda Maier, an overlooked woman composer who lived from 1853-1894. Thanks, Dr. Fairtile!

Amanda Maier

Amanda Röntgen-Maier portrait

Amanda Röntgen-Maier portrait
Bergen Public Library Norway from Bergen, Norway

If you look up Amanda Maier in Grove Music Online, the self-styled “world’s premier online music encyclopedia,” you’ll find that she was the first wife of composer Julius Röntgen, as well as a violinist who studied at the Stockholm Conservatory. But Maier (1853-1894) wasn’t “only” a wife and a violinist; she was also a gifted composer whose music was praised by both Brahms and Grieg. After hearing a recording of Maier’s violin concerto on the radio, I resolved to add the works of this unjustly neglected composer to Parsons Music Library’s collection.

Jennifer Martyn, herself a violinist, has filled in some of Maier’s background. Maier’s performing career essentially ended when she married Julius Röntgen, her violin teacher’s son, but she continued to compose until a few years prior to her tragically early death, from a lung ailment, at the age of forty-one.

Two CDs recently acquired by Parsons Music Library are simply titled Amanda Maier, volumes 1 and 2 (call numbers RM3.1 .M36 2016 and RM3.1 .M36 2017) They are the brainchild of Swedish producer Erik Nilsson, who plans to record all of Maier’s works. Volume 1 contains the first movement of her Violin Concerto in D Minor, performed by violinist Gregory Maytan and the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andreas Stoehr (unfortunately, the second and third movements have been lost). Maier’s final work, her Piano Quartet in E Minor, is played by Maytan with Bernt Lysell (viola), Sara Wijk (cello), and Ann-Sofi Klingberg (piano). The Quartet is a profound work, with a dramatic first movement, a lyrical second movement reminiscent of Brahms, a dancelike third movement, and an exuberant finale. Klingberg also accompanies Maytan on the Swedish Tunes and Dances that Maier and her husband composed together.

Amanda Maier Volume 1

Volume 2 of Amanda Maier contains her best known work, the passionate Sonata in B Minor for Violin and Piano, here performed by violinist Cecilia Zilliacus and pianist Bengt Forsberg. This duo also plays her Nine Pieces for Violin and Piano, only six of which have ever been published. Maier’s vocal music is represented on this recording by four unpublished songs setting texts by the now-forgotten poet Carl-David af Wirsén. Soprano Sabina Bisholt and pianist Bengt Forsberg perform these rather melancholy pieces.

Amanda Maier Volume 2

Parsons Music Library will soon have three other CDs of Amanda Maier’s music (Amanda Maier, vol. 3, Amanda & Julius, and Amanda Maier Meets Johannes Brahms), as well scores of her Piano Quartet and her Sonata for Violin and Piano (arranged for flute). Most of Maier’s music remains unpublished or exists only in rare 19th-century editions, many of which have been uploaded to IMSLP. We will continue to collect the music of this undeservedly forgotten composer as it becomes available.

Leah Broad devotes an episode of her podcast “Notes on Notes” to Amanda Maier, which includes video performances of Maier’s music:

And here is a fascinating video about the rediscovery of Maier’s Piano Trio in E flat: