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Mayer: Violin Sonatas

4.1 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 14, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

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CD

Review

Three unheard sonatas by 19th-century German Mayer

Taking her artist statement in the booklet-notes at face value, violinist Aleksandra Maslovaric is a rugged musical adventurer. She certainly leaves no stone unturned in the music itself, poring over each lyrical line with loving care (the piano and violin sound are deftly delineated and vibrantly rendered). But the fact that she has managed to unearth some genuinely neglected works worth hearing - in one case going back to the unpublished manuscript - certainly earns her a well-deserved explorer's hat.

Emilie Mayer (1812-83) was one of a number of women who, in the accepted parlance of the Romantic era, 'composed music like a man'. Not being married, she was free of the spousal jealousy of Alma Mahler or Clara Schumann; nor did she have a brother like Fanny Mendelssohn's discouraging her from publishing her work. As such, Mayer's output - admired in her lifetime, utterly neglected thereafter - included eight symphonies and at least 15 concert overtures in addition to a shelf full of chamber music and Lieder.

These three sonatas cover a wide swathe of stylistic history. The Sonata in E flat, the earliest piece here, still has its feet planted firmly in the late Classical era, while the sonatas in E minor and A minor (Opp 19 and 18 respectively) open and close this recording by reaching ahead with more Romantic abandon.

Not too much abandon, however. Compared with Clara Schumann or Fanny Mendelssohn, Mayer's music takes fewer chances, favoring craft over fresh ideas. That craft alone, though, is enough to justify an admirable hearing by a performer with such a genuine commitment.
Ken Smith --Gramophone

Several points attracted me to this album. First, I was unfamiliar with Serbian-born violinist Aleksandra Maslovaric and wanted to know more about her work. Second, I was unfamiliar with the nineteenth-century composer Emilie Mayer and wanted to know more her as well. Third, the three Mayer violin sonatas presented on the disc were previously unrecorded, and I wanted to hear what few listeners had ever heard before. So, here was a perfect and ultimately rewarding opportunity to find out a few things.

In a day and age when polite society expected women to be at home tending to the family, German composer Emilie Mayer (1812-1883) was out and about doing a man's work, writing music. More important, she apparently went at with a passion, producing eight symphonies, fifteen concert overtures, and numerous chamber works and songs. Like her more-famous and influential contemporary, Clara Schumann, Ms. Mayer traveled throughout Europe performing and attending concerts of her music.

The Mayer sonatas presented on this disc are clearly in the Romantic vein--beautiful, flowing, and melodic--and Ms. Maslovaric, accompanied by Anne-Lise Longuemare on piano, perform them in an equally beautiful, flowing, melodic manner. The material may not be important or memorable enough to warrant more than an occasional listen, but those occasional visits will assuredly be enjoyable.

The disc begins with the Sonata in E minor, Op. 19 (1867), the longest and most-mature work on the program. Here, we get a lengthy and energetic opening Allegro agitato, certainly underlining the agitation part. Yet with the movement we hear any number of tempo and mood shifts as the various themes pour out of the violin. Moreover, Ms. Maslovaric seems wholly dedicated to displaying the music in its best light, whether dancing lightly through the notes or stressing their intensity. The ensuing Scherzo is a happy, bouncy affair, and Ms. Maslovaric imbues it with a tender care that ensures we don t see it as lightweight or frivolous. The Adagio has a faintly melancholy tone, and the final Allegro shows a brilliance that matches the opening section.
Next, we get the little Sonata in E flat major, which survives in manuscript form only. It evidences a good deal of creativity, and one wonders why the composer chose never to publish it. The final work in the album, the Sonata in A minor, Op. 18 (1864), is also a relatively short piece, its four movements totaling around twenty-three minutes. It displays some of the same qualities as the E minor Sonata, although in more compressed form. There are strikingly lovely passages of high Romanticism juxtaposed with vibrant moments of excitement.

For fans of chamber music looking for something a bit different, Ms. Maslovaric's decision to emphasize in her repertoire classical works by female composers comes as a welcome change of pace for the record industry, and her recordings make a welcome addition to the classical music catalogue.

Ms. Maslovaric recorded the album at Skywalker Sound, Marin County, CA, mastered it at Romanowski Mastering, San Francisco, CA, and released it in 2012. Although the piano sounds slightly bigger and closer than the violin, the piano is also somewhat softer and more resonant, the two instruments both exhibiting a smooth, rich, natural response. Output seems a little high, so you'll need to adjust the gain when you start it up. The violin is particularly lifelike, and the two players appear well imaged, with strong dynamic contrasts to set them off.
--John J. Puccio --Classical Candor

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Product details

  • Conductor: Aleksandra Maslovaric
  • Composer: Emilie Mayer
  • Audio CD (May 14, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Feminae Records
  • ASIN: B0080LJU3O
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #518,623 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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November 15, 2013
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July 20, 2012
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