Thursday, December 24, 2009

Unjustly Neglected Composers: Amanda Maier



While seeking out material for our annual March concert of music written by women, my pianist friend randomly came upon a sonata for violin and piano by Amanda Maier in the World Cat. After the first two measures we both agreed to postpone our previous choices for this year's program for another year, and spend a few wonderful months with Amanda Maier. I set out to find out everything I could about her, which led me to corresponding with her great grandson, and locating the rest of her music.

Amanda Maier was born into a working-class family (her father was a baker), she became the first woman to get a music degree from the Stockholm Conservatory of Music in 1869. She continued her studies from 1873-1876 with Engelbert Röntgen, the concertmaster of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, at the Leipzig Conservatory. Like many of the other violin soloists of her time, she wrote her own music. She wrote her B-minor Violin Sonata while she was in Leipzig (around the time of the above picture, taken when she was 20). It was published in Stockholm in 1878, and it is possible that Amanda included this work in her extensive tour through Sweden and Norway during the spring and summer of that year.

She met her future husband, Julius Röntgen, in Leipzig. He was the son of her violin teacher. They married in 1880, and entertained guests like Johannes Brahms and Edward Grieg in their home. Both Brahms and Grieg admired Amanda's ability as a composer, but the ethos of the time prevailed, and when Amanda became a mother, her main musical outlet became teaching her sons.

She contracted tuberculosis after the birth of her second son, and she died at the age of 41 in 1894. Her superb violin sonata probably went unplayed until 1994 when it was recorded for the first time. Here's the first movement, the second movement , and the third movement. This recording, and this excellent series of performance videos beginning with this one miraculously appeared on YouTube at about the same time that we first read the music (just a few weeks ago).

The Stockholm State Library houses her manuscripts and published editions of her other music. There are also diaries in old Swedish, and an exchange of letters with Johannes Brahms. I have written to the rare manuscript people there, requesting that they contribute scans of these works to the Petrucci Library, but I would seriously appreciate it if anyone in Stockholm with access to the library could help make a case for making Amanda Maier's music available to musicians everywhere. The B-minor Sonata is the only piece available through interlibrary loan, and the paper, from 1878, is growing weak. There are only two copies in circulation in the United States. One is at the Loeb Library at Harvard, and the other is at the University of California, Riverside. There's a copy in Copenhagen as well as the one in the copy in Stockholm.

In manuscript there are 25 Preludes for Piano (1869), a Violin Concerto (1875), a piece for cello and piano (1880) that she wrote with her husband, a couple of songs, and an E-minor Piano Quartet (1891). Her Six Pieces for Violin and Piano (1878) were published, and are available at the Haag in the Netherlands.

I hope that someone (or everyone) reading this will share my enthusiasm for this unjustly neglected composer, and share in my quest to make her music easily available to anyone who would like to play it.

UPDATE: There are more photos of Amanda Maier here.

19 comments:

André Nilson said...

What a lovely piece on Amanda Maier! I first heard her music in 1994 when the violin sonata was released after some research. The musicologist could tell stories of Brahms much enjoying her cookies she presented at her many musical gatherings, as well as his appreciation of her music. They played some of her music together. Anyway, she really is unjustly neglected; but after all, she was a woman, so what else can one say?

André Nilson said...

...released on disc, that is...Sorry...

André Nilson said...

I went to Amanda's native town and found more photographs of her. They are owned by the city museum. In the photo of your post, she apparently is 20 years of age. I'd like to upload a photo somewhere and perhaps show you a picture of her standing, vith violin in hand, behind a woman sitting by a small organ. Perhaps you'd know who her organ-friend would be?

Elaine Fine said...

Please put a link to the photos when you upload them! You are so lucky to be able to act as a "scout" for information about her.

I do know that she was friends with Ethel Smyth who was a fellow student in Leipzig (Amanda is mentioned briefly in Smyth's memoir). Smyth has a very recognizable face.

This is all very exciting, isn't it?

André Nilson said...

Yes it is exciting! I didn't know Amanda was friends with Smyth. I wonder if she adopted Smyth's political views and feminist work. Better get hold of that memoir of Smyth's somehow. I'll tell my friend Fredrik (who showed me your blog post on Amanda Maier) to look for it. He's got probably EVERYTHING on Virginia Woolf, and because Smyth fell in love with Woolf, he probably has something from Smyth as well.

Anyway, my job will be to upload a few photos of Amanda since I don't live too far from her home town. There are a couple of photos of her as a little girl, and one at adolescence, and a few more of her posing with her violin. I'll let you know.

Elaine Fine said...

The reference to Maier on on page 70 of my abridged version of The Memoirs of Ethel Smyth Her name is spelled incorrectly, and the reference to her has to do with the Rontgen household:

"There was one more belonging to that household, a dear Swedish girl called Amanda Meyer, violinist and composer, who afterwards married Julius; and then for the first time I saw a charming blend of art and courtship very common in those days. Thus it must have been in Bach's time, thus with the old Rontgens, but I don't see how it can come off quite in the same way under modern conditions."

I imagine that Maier was socially a product of her time, while Smyth was ultra-progressive.

Perhaps an unabridged version has more!

André Nilson said...

Hello! I got Fredrik's wife to wire these from the library. After all, she's a librarian! These photos were all picked up at the city museum in the town where Amanda lived. Some of them we've seen before; for example the wikipedia photo which probably was scanned from a cd booklet or some paper scrap. The name Selma printed on a couple of the photos refer to the photographer who lived in the same town.

Greetings! And I'm sure Amanda would send you hers as well!

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Elaine Fine said...

Thank you Andre. Once my heart stops pounding, I'll try to put them in some plausible order and put them in a new post.

Tay said...

Interesting post. It was nice of you to share this piece of history.

Lehel Donath said...

Amanda's e minor piano quartet of 1891 will be published soon at DONEMUS (www.donemus.nl)

Lehel Donath said...

http://www.sophie-drinker-institut.de/Maier, Amanda.htm

Lehel Donath said...

http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Maier,_Amanda

Gregory said...

How nice that you are interested in Amanda Maier! I loved playing and recording her sonata... could I send you a copy of my recording? It can be found at www.cdbaby.com/maytanlee

Elaine Fine said...

I actually already know your excellent recording! Danny Morganstern told me about it.

Gregory said...

I just got a hold of Amanda Maiers six pieces for violin and piano. I hope to record it soon!

Elaine Fine said...

After you record it, perhaps you could make the score, which I imagine is firmly in the public domain, available through the Petrucci Library!

Anonymous said...

Hi!
I just heard her Violin Sonata and love it! It is wonderful! Who plays it on Youtube?
Thank you for writing about Amanda Maier!

Lehel Donath said...

Amanda Röntgen-Maier's Piano Quartet is now def. published at Donemus:
http://webshop.mcn.nl/portal/catalog/mcn_productlist.php?work=325466&language=en

Jennifer M said...

Hello,

I am interested in researching Amanda Maier-Rontgen and I'm wondering if you would mind being in touch by e-mail? I would like to ask you a few questions about what you have discovered. If you don't mind, please drop me a line: jennifer.duke@mail.utoronto.ca

Thanks,

Jennifer M.