Mayer: Violin Sonatas (CD review)

Aleksandra Maslovaric,
violin; Anne-Lise Longuemare, piano. Feminae Records.

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

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

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.


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