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Amanda MAIER (1853-1894)
Violin Sonata in B minor (1878) [19:53]
Nine Pieces for violin and piano (1879) [31:56]
Four Songs (1878) [13:05]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Auf dem See, Op.106 (1885-88, arr, violin and piano) [2:54]
Cecilia Zilliacus (violin)
Sabina Bisholt (soprano)
Bengt Forsberg (piano)
rec. 2017, Västerås Concert Hall
Texts and translations included

The first volume in this series started with Amanda Maier’s Violin Concerto in D minor, Piano Quartet and Swedish Dances (review). This second volume concentrates squarely on her chamber compositions and songs.

The Violin Sonata, completed in 1878, is her most frequently recorded piece in a select sequence dating back to Bernt Lysell’s 1994 CD on Musica Sveciae. It’s a fine, well-balanced work, with strong material for the piano as much as for the violin, late Romanticism of a confident and probing kind. The three-part central movement marries lyricism and elegance with a songful expression, though the Allegretto section generates a more vibrant, up-tempo feel. The finale is a fast-bowed, self-confident Rondo revealing an insider’s knowledge of balance and harmonic development – Maier was a fine violinist in her own right.

Her gift for lyricism irradiates the Nine Pieces for violin and piano, which were published in 1879. There’s a perfectly poised balance between charm and athleticism in this set with generous warmth and the occasional Brahmsian allusion (try the fourth of the set) to be encountered as well as nostalgic reverie (No.5) cross-pollinated with Grieg-like verdency. For contrast there’s a fast, fleet dance followed by a languid movement but the most characteristically national-sounding music, the most explicitly Swedish, is the last and longest, a fresh Allegro, ma non troppo which brings the cycle to a bracing end. This is the world première of all nine pieces. Three were unpublished so when that fine champion of Maier’s music, the violinist Gregory Maytan (who recorded the Violin Concerto on the first volume of this series) set down his version he only recorded the six published movements. Interestingly in his performance of the First he excludes the Tempo Primo passage at the end. Cecilia Zilliacus restores it, playing it as written.

The four unpublished songs were composed during the busy years 1878-9 and are skilful and attractive. Soprano Sabina Bisholt sounds as if she has been placed very slightly back in the balance, possibly to allow the more operatically-scaled elements of composition and performance better to be heard in the aural balance. She brings a strong timbral and tonal weight to bear on these pieces, though also succeeds in exploring the more introspective elements of the second of the set, which is perhaps the most immediately attractive. To end the recital Zilliacus performs an arrangement of Brahms’ Auf dem See on Maier’s own 18th century Fiscer violin.

There is some choice when it comes to the Sonata but no one else offers an all-Maier programme. Zilliacus and the ever-vigilant and apt Bengt Forsberg however offer strong, assured performances of this and the remainder of the programme and ensure that the second volume, as well annotated as the first, is just as successful.

Jonathan Woolf

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