Amanda Maier: Violin Sonata in B Minor
Born in the Swedish town of Landskrona in 1853, Amanda Maier began her musical studies from a young age. Her father was a violinist and pianist, and so Maier learned from him in the first instance. Maier went on to study at the Stockholm Conservatory, where she explored performance and composition – winning prizes for both disciplines. After graduating, Maier moved to Leipzig to study in the musical hub of Europe at the time. She studied composition with Carl Reinecke and violin with Engelbert Röntgen.
Whilst in Leipzig, Maier composed her Violin Sonata in B minor (1874), where the piece won a competition prize. Although much of Maier’s music was praised by contemporaries such as Johannes Brahms, Edvard Grieg and Carl Reinecke, most of it remained unpublished during her lifetime.
Cast into three contrasting movements, the sonata is based on musical ideals from the stylings of Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann.
Movement I – Allegro
The opening movement, marked ‘Allegro’, is dark and moody in character. As the piano creates ripples underneath the surface, the violin soars above with a broad melody. The two instruments intertwine at times, but soon go their separate ways once more. There are ebbs and flows in the main theme, with Maier playing with dynamics to create a difference in texture between sections. There is an intensity that runs through the veins of this movement, which keeps the tempo moving along and also keeps the ear interested. The captivating development section sees the violinist reach new heights. This excitement leads to the fiery coda section, which builds up to the fiery conclusion of this opening movement.
Movement II – Andantino
The lullaby-like second movement is initially set in 3/8 time as a classical barcarolle. The delicate soloist sits on top of the sparkling piano part that rocks back and forth. Maier uses lots of call and response techniques in this movement, with the two going back and forth with themes. A quick change into an ‘Allegro’ section changes the mood of the movement completely. This short scherzo-like section raises the mood and sees more intricate playing from both instruments. The movement begins to lower in dynamic, until it comes to a gentle close.
Movement III – Allegro molto vivace
The dramatic finale rondo starts with a bang as the two rush off with the main theme. Bold dynamics are scattered throughout, especially on the louder end, which show Maier’s confidence in her own writing. The technical demands of this movement are great, and showcase great musicianship when performed correctly. A lyrical central section takes hold, which harks back to the previous two movements. Although starting in the minor, by the end of the finale the music is firmly in the major, which gives a triumphant feel to the end of the piece.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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