The following is a guest post by Jennifer Martyn, a violinist and a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music. Her research focuses on the life and career of Amanda Maier. She is particularly interested in Maier’s career as a violinist and how her performances and repertoire can inform us about the under-explored topic of nineteenth century women violinists.
If you have not heard of Amanda Maier (1853-1894), you are not alone. A celebrated violin soloist and composer during her lifetime, Maier was all but forgotten in death. (This was a common, if unjust fate among women musicians, who were largely ignored by music scholars for most of the twentieth century.) Today, however, Maier’s popularity is making a comeback, and rightfully so! Researchers and performers, predominantly in Sweden and the Netherlands, have become enamored with Maier, resulting in new publications and performances of her music, and renewed efforts to find her lost manuscripts. There have been only a few performances of her works in North America, where Maier remains a relative unknown.
The Library of Congress Music Division holds published scores of two works by Swedish composer Amanda Maier (1853-1894): Sonata for violin and piano in B minor (Musikaliska Konstföreningen 1878) and Piano Quartet in E minor (Donemus 2010).
Who was Amanda Maier?
Amanda Maier was born in Landskrona, Sweden, on February 20, 1853. Her father taught her violin and piano when she was a child and, showing great musical promise, she enrolled at the Kungliga Musikaliska Akademien in Stockholm at age sixteen. In Stockholm her principal instrument was the organ, but she also studied cello, piano, violin, elementary singing, composition, counterpoint, harmony, instrumentation, and history and aesthetics of music. When Maier graduated with top grades in 1873, she became the first woman ever to earn the title of Musikdirektor (Director of Music) from the institution.
In 1873 Maier moved to Leipzig to pursue further studies in violin and composition. Among her teachers were Engelbert Röntgen (concertmaster of the Gewandhaus orchestra), Carl Reinecke (director of the Gewandhaus orchestra) and Ernst Friedrich Richter (professor of harmony and counterpoint at the Hochschule für Musik and cantor of the Thomasschule). In Leipzig Maier spent her time studying, composing, and performing, and nearly every evening she participated in some sort of musical activity. She attended many concerts, sat in on rehearsals of the Gewandhaus orchestra, and frequently participated in musical soirées, where she socialized and collaborated with the city’s finest musicians.
Maier’s career as both violinist and composer flourished in the 1870s. Most of her compositions were written during this decade, and she performed frequently in both Germany and Sweden. Some of her most notable performances include those of her own violin concerto: with the Gewandhaus orchestra in Leipzig, for King Oscar II in Malmö, and at the Kungliga Teatern (Royal Theatre) in Stockholm, all in 1876. In the summers of 1874 and 1876 Maier and her colleague, soprano Louise Pyk, performed many concerts in southern Sweden. In 1878 and 1879 they were joined by pianist Augusta Kjellander for much more ambitious tours that took them farther north and into Norway in 1878, and to St. Petersburg and Finland in 1879. Maier’s performances were well received. Reviews were positive, and in her diaries she often wrote of numerous curtain calls, dozens of bouquets of flowers, and requests for future performances. Maier was a celebrity in the Swedish press, which followed her whereabouts and reported rumours about forthcoming compositions in addition to concert advertisements and reviews. It was reported that in 1878 Maier declined an offer of an extensive tour in the United States.
In Leipzig, Maier grew close to her violin teacher’s son, the pianist and composer Julius Röntgen. Maier and Röntgen spent many evenings playing music together, including each other’s works-in-progress. They were engaged in 1876 and were married in Landskrona in 1880. The pair settled in Amsterdam, where Röntgen had been teaching for two years, and where he later led a number of musical organizations. Maier’s career, in contrast, declined significantly. She very rarely performed in public, and composed much less. She did however continue to participate in social musical evenings, where she had the opportunity to collaborate not only with local musicians, but guests to the city, such as Johannes Brahms, Edvard Grieg and Anton Rubenstein.Maier suffered a series of health problems that undoubtedly contributed to the decline in her musical activities. Throughout her adult life, she suffered from difficulty with her eyes, often leaving her bedridden for days at a time. Between the birth of her two sons (Julius in 1881 and Engelbert in 1886), Maier suffered three difficult miscarriages, and shortly after Engelbert’s birth, she fell ill with pleurisy, the first encounter with the illness that would eventually take her life. Despite several rest cures in France and Switzerland, and tranquil summers spent in Norway and Denmark, she never fully recovered. Maier died in her sleep on June 15, 1894.
Sonata for Piano and Violin. Musikaliska Konstföreningen, 1878.
Sechs Stücke für Clavier und Violine. Breitkopf & Härtel, 1879.
Schwedische Weisen und Tänzen (Julius and Amanda Röntgen). Breitkopf & Härtel, 1882.
Quartet in E-minor for piano, violin, viola and cello, 1891. Donemus klassiek, 2010.
Zweigespräche (Julius and Amanda Röntgen). Breitkopf & Härtel.
Violin Concerto in One Movement. Mark Starr, 2014. (Manuscript 1875)
25 Preludes for piano. (1869)
String Quartet in A major, 3 movements (1870s)
Four Songs after David af Wirsén (1878)
Maier also composed several pieces that are now lost, including among others Intermezzo for piano, Romans for violin, a fantasy for violin, a piano trio, a trio for two violins and piano, a movement of her string quartet, and unknown works for organ.
Benestad, Finn, and Hanna de Vries Stavland, eds. Edvard Grieg und Julius Röntgen: Briefwechsel, 1883-1907. Amsterdam: Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 1997.
Kalbeck, Max, ed. Johannes Brahms: The Herzogenberg Correspondence. Translated by Hannah Bryant. New York: Da Capo Press, 1987. [LC Catalog Record]
Lundholm, Lennart. Amanda Maier-Röntgen: 20/3 1853 i Landskrona-15/6 1894 i Amsterdam: en bortglömd svensk musikprofil. Landskrona: Förf, 1995.
Maier, Amanda. Unpublished diaries. 1875-1880. Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Stockholm, Sweden.
Thiadens collection of historical Maier family documents. Private collection.
“Tidningar.” The website for searching Swedish newspapers at the National Library of Sweden. http://tidningar.kb.se/
Vis, Jurjen. “Gaudeamus. Het leven van Julius Röntgen (1855-1932). Componist en musicus.” PhD diss., Utrecht University, 2007. [LC Catalog Record]
——. Summary of the diaries of Julius Röntgen. Unpublished. Last modified 2007. Microsoft Word File.
To learn more about Amanda Maier, use Library of Congress e-resources such as Oxford Music Online and Naxos Music Library (both available on-site only). If you need help finding any specific resources, contact our reference staff via Ask A Librarian.
Amanda Maier Meets Johannes Brahms. Urlicht, 5994 (2013). Performers: Philip Myers, Elmira Darvarova, Bryan Wagorn.
Amanda Maier, Vol. 1 / Stoehr, Maytan, Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra. Db Productions, 174 (2016). Performers: Gregory Maytan, Sara Wijk, Bernt Lysell, Ann-Sofi Klingberg, Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/Andreas Stoehr.
A Violin’s Life, Vol. 2: Music for the “Lipinski” Stradivari/Almond, Wolfram. Avie, 2363 (2016). Performers: Frank Almond, William Wolfram.
Chamber Music (Swedish) – ANDREE, E. / NETZEL, L. / AULIN, V. / MAIER, A. / TEGNER, A. Musica Sveciae, MSCD529-29 (1994). Performers: Tale Quartet.
Romantic Music-Jean-Claude Bouveresse, Benedicte Peran. Gall, 1235 (2009). Performers: Benedict Peran, Jean-Claude Bouveresse.