Maier: String Quartet in A major; Smyth: String Quartet in C minor
The Maier Quartet
db Productions dbCD197 64:40 mins
This recital combines two early works by Amanda Maier and Ethel Smyth. The quartets on this recording were written when both women were in their early 20s; they knew each other in Leipzig. Both were remarkable pioneers – Maier, a fine violinist, was the first Swedish director of music, but marriage and motherhood ended her career and she died aged 41. Smyth, defiantly gay and feminist, had to go on a hunger strike before she was allowed to study music, remained unmarried and enjoyed
a long career.
Maier’s Quartet in A, composed in 1877, disappeared until the 1990s, when the outer movements were reconstructed by B Tommy Andersson. Her riotous approach to harmony needs more direction and variety in bowing and dynamics. Smyth lost interest in her early Quartet, from 1881, although some material was re-used later.
Both quartets are performed with precision and polish. However, Maier’s tremendous imagination needs more wit and lightness, despite being a substantial work. Smyth’s early Quartet is somewhat laborious and lengthy, as one might expect from a young composer; the performance is polished but does not redeem the work’s shortcomings. Still, it’s an informative recording with an attractive, rich sound.
Read more of our reviews of the latest Ethel Smyth recordings
Review more of our reviews of the latest Amanda Maier recordings