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 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.


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

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Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

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