Amanda & Julius: Works by Amanda Maier and Julius Röntgen

Bengt Forsberg; Hanna Aberg, Cecilia Zilliacus (
dBProductions)

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Amanda & Julius Works by Amanda Maier and Julius Röntgen
Bengt Forsberg (piano, organ); Hanna Aberg (singer), Cecilia Zilliacus (violin)
dBProductions dBCD185 61:87 mins

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Julius Röntgen’s name may be most familiar as a recipient of letters from the more famous Brahms and Grieg. But the German-Dutch composer (1855-1932) is a missing link in traditional-veined late Romanticism – and so is his wife, the violinist and composer Amanda Maier (1853-1894), the first female graduate to become director of music from Stockholm’s Royal College of Music. This beautiful disc from the splendid Swedish pianist Bengt Forsberg is virtually their love story through their music. The pair met in Leipzig, where Röntgen took a while to propose. Maier, a splendid violinist, may have fended off the attentions of Grieg himself – initially friendly and encouraging, he did not contact her for four years after her marriage. The young couple attended the general rehearsal when Joachim was premiering Brahms’s Violin Concerto. Later Grieg came to visit, collapsed while there and stayed a year.

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The short works in this eminently listenable programme are somewhat in the vein of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, the language approachable, the melodic twists gently Nordic; the most substantial piece, Röntgen’s Neckens Polska, Op.11, is a striking set of variations on a Swedish folksong (sung by Hanna Aberg). Perhaps the outstanding work, though, is Röntgen’s intensely beautiful Adagio for violin and organ. Maier’s language in her Preludes is harmonically more restless than Röntgen’s, the focus sometimes less on melody than exploration. Their similarity, though, is strong enough for Forsberg to play a game with us: in the ‘Zweigespräche’ pieces, with five by Amanda and five by Julius, he does not reveal which is whose. If you write to him by 1 June 2018 with the correct answer, you have a chance of winning a CD of Maier’s music.

Jessica Duchen