Amanda Maier-Röntgen (1853−1894)

Carolina Amanda Erika Maier (Maier-Röntgen by marriage) was born on 20 February 1853 in Landskrona and died on 15 July 1894 in Amsterdam, where she lived following her marriage in 1880 to the pianist-composer Julius Röntgen (1854−1932). She studied at the educational institution of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in Stockholm between 1869 and 1872, and in 1872 became Sweden’s first-ever female Director of Music. In Leipzig between 1873 and 1876, she studied violin with Engelbert Röntgen and harmony and composition with Carl Reinecke and Ernst Friedrich Richter. She was a violinist and composer, active in Sweden and on the Continent.

Life

Early life and student years

Carolina Amanda Erika Maier was born in Landskrona. Her parents were Carl Eduard Maier (1820−77) and Elisabeth Sjöbeck (1818−96). Her father migrated from Riedlingen (Württemberg) in Germany to Landskrona, where he set up as a pâtissier. He was also a musician, and gained his Director of Music diploma in Stockholm in 1852. He taught both languages and music, and had music engagements in Landskrona. Elisabeth Sjöbeck came from Tirup, a small village near Landskrona.

Amanda Maier was given violin and keyboard lessons by her father before entering the educational institution of Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music), in Stockholm 1869. There she studied the history and aesthetics of music, violin, cello, organ and composition. Parallel to her studies, she gave concerts. She qualified as a teacher by teaching singing for a year in Clara parish elementary school. In 1873 she graduated as Director of Music, the first woman to do so, scoring top marks in most of her subjects. At her graduation concert in April 1873 she played both the organ and the violin, and the programme included one of her own compositions, a romance for violin. In the spring of 1874 a grant of 1,000 riksdalers from Musikaliska akademien enabled her to study in Leipzig.

From August 1873 to June 1876 she took lessons from three of the most prominent teachers at the Leipzig Conservatory: she studied violin under Engelbert Röntgen and harmony and composition under Carl Reinecke and Ernst Friedrich Richter. Through ‘Skandinaviska sällskapet’ (the Scandinavian Society) she made the acquaintance of Edvard Grieg, who became one of her closest friends.

Amanda Maier was both violinist and composer. By 1873, in addition to the romance, she had composed a trio for piano, violin and cello. In the summer and autumn of 1875 she took time out from her studies in Leipzig and returned to Landskrona, where she completed her violin concerto in one movement. She performed it in Halle on 10 December 1875 and again in Leipzig, on 8 February 1876, with the Gewandhaus Orchestra under Carl Reinecke. One of the Gewandhaus trustees, Heinrich Flinsch, lent her a Stradivarius for the Leipzig concert, and Julius Röntgen wrote in his diary: ‘It went very well, it sounded fine and was well received. A great success.’

Career as musician and composer

Amanda Maier completed three major concert tours between 1876 and 1880. In July and August 1876 she gave concerts in the south of Sweden together with the singer Louise Pyk (1849−1929) and pianist Augusta Kiellander (1855−1897). On 18 October she played in a concert at Malmö teater, in the presence of King Oscar II, and on 18 November that same year she played her own violin concerto and Mendelssohn’s at Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera) in Stockholm. While in Stockholm she met her friends Edvard and Nina Grieg. In between concert periods in Scandinavia, she was in Leipzig.

In the summer of 1878 she toured Scandinavia together with Louise Pyk, the opera singer Sven Wilhelm Lundvik (1844−1910) and pianist Augusta Kiellander. Starting in Landskrona, they made their way up the east coast of Sweden to Stockholm and from there to Sundsvall, Trondheim (Norway), continuing down the west coast of Scandinavia via Bergen, Stavanger, Sandefjord, Strömstad, Marstrand and, finally, Varberg. Between 8 May and 25 July they gave 31 concerts in 22 Swedish and four Norwegian towns or cities.

In 1873 Maier had written a violin sonata in B minor, dedicated to her father. She probably continued working on this during her years in Leipzig. In September 1877 she sent it to Musikaliska Konstföreningen (the Swedish Art Music Society), where the readers were Niels W. Gade, Franz Hiller (from Köln) and Albert Rubenson. On 5 December 1877 the society resolved to accept the sonata. Hiller suggested changes to the slow movement, but in a letter to Albert Rubenson, Maier wrote: ‘[I have become so much] a part of it as it stands that I would quite certainly have difficulty in making any changes […]. So I would prefer if the sonata could be left unaltered.’ This letter reveals her confidence as a composer. The sonata was printed without any alterations and published in 1878.

Family life and music in the home

In the summer of 1879, in Leipzig, she became engaged to Julius Röntgen, the son of her violin teacher. In August she returned to Landskrona. Between 10 September and 23 November 1879 she was on tour again, with Louise Pyk and Augusta Kiellander. This time they travelled through Finland, from Helsinki via Viipuri to St Petersburg, returning by way of Helsinki, Turku, Mariehamn, and Uppsala to Malmö. She spent the spring of 1880 with Julius Röntgen in Amsterdam, and on 28 July 1880 they were married in Sofia Albertina Church, Landskrona. Wedding guest arrived from both Scandinavia and Germany.

The years between 1880 and 1887 were a serenely happy time for the Röntgens. They settled in Amsterdam, where Julius Röntgen taught piano at Maatschappy tot Bevordering der Toonkunst (the association for the promotion of music), becoming senior piano teacher there in 1884 and later Professor at the Amsterdam Conservatory. Amanda and Julius had two children: Julius (1881−1951) and Engelbert (1886−1958). With few exceptions, Amanda Maier ceased giving public concerts after marrying Julius Röntgen. She took personal charge of their two sons’ musical education, and both grew up to be professional musician − Julius a violinist and Engelbert a cellist.

Between 1878 and 1901 Julius Röntgen arranged chamber music concerts, with the invited performers as guests of the family. Jurjen Vis, who has published a comprehensive biography of Julius Röntgen (2007), finds it odd that Amanda Maier, a skilful violinist, was seldom engaged for concerts. In 1885 she took part in a Bach and Handel concert arranged by Julius Röntgen. She played together with a violinist by the name of Joseph Cramer, and the reviewer declared her the best performer on the concert platform. Marriage had the effect of reducing her chances of professional development. Her own performances ceased almost entirely, and her music was not played in public. On the other hand, she played together with Julius in their own drawing room.

The Röntgen family’s home in Amsterdam was a meeting point of several well-known musicians. Drawing room guests included Anton Rubinstein, Joseph Joachim, Clara Schumann, Edvard and Nina Grieg and Johannes Brahms. The couple’s nearest friends included Heinrich and Elisabeth Herzogenberg (the latter a pianist) and, during the final years, Rolf Viggo de Neergaard and his wife Bodil, who was a grandchild of the composer J. P. E. Hartmann.

The closing years

Amanda Maier fell ill after the birth of her second son, and in 1887 she went down with pleurisy. She had still not recovered the following summer. Röntgen wrote to Grieg: ‘All winter she had to stay indoors and refrain from all music away from home.’ In the autumn of 1888 she went to Nice for lung treatment, and there she met her friends Heinrich and Elisabeth Herzogenberg. During the winter, Amanda and Elisabeth played violin sonatas by Brahms, and the following year (1889) she performed the same compositions together with Clara Schumann. Amanda Maier spent the autumn of 1889 under medical supervision in Davos and the winter in Nice.

1890 found Amanda Maier back in Amsterdam, where she resumed lessons with her sons. In 1891, for a journey to Norway, she wrote her last major work, the Piano Quartet in E minor. Public performances included one of Suite aus Jotunheim in 1892, together with her husband. During her three last summers she visited Denmark, Sweden and Norway together with family, friends and musicians. In the summer of 1889 she met the Neergaards, a Danish couple, in Norway. Their friendship led to a stay at Fuglsang, the Neergaards’ castle in Denmark, where Maier took part in summer concerts. Shortly before her death, Röntgen wrote to Grieg that Maier did not feel ill, she had no pain and she was looking well. A few hours before she died she was teaching her sons. Röntgen wrote: ‘It was a quiet, infinitely calm transition.’ Her piano quartet was not performed until after her death, at a concert in Amsterdam.

Works

Amanda Maier was a composer as well as a proficient violinist. There is no complete list of her output, and it is uncertain how many compositions have survived. She had written a piano trio before coming to Leipzig, but also a romance for piano and a serenade. All of these works are lost.

Her best-known works are the Sonata for Violin and Piano (1878), Sechs Stücke for violin and piano (1879) and the Piano Quartet (1891).

The violin sonata has three movements. The first is in sonata form and in character is shaped by the verve of its principal theme. The second movement is in three parts, with a very simple, cantabile theme and a vigorous middle section followed by a recapitulation of the first part. The finale is a rondo, which throws out several aptly inventive themes and gives proof of technical accomplishment. This sonata is well crafted and highly original.

Sechs Stücke for violin and piano (1879) was published by Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig and dedicated to Maier’s parents-in-law, Engelbert and Paulina Röntgen (violinist and pianist respectively). All six pieces are profoundly personal. The first opens with a fast-moving section in which piano and violin engage in a dialogue both intense and tranquil, followed by a full-blooded section reminiscent of Hungarian folk music. The fourth piece has demanding passages for the violin but also includes a caressing middle section with a fine dialogue between piano and violin. This piece is rounded off with a repeat of its rumbustious introduction. The final piece is in a burlesque Nordic folk tone, with a distinctively rhythmic violin part and a piano accompaniment which can be associated with popular music. The middle sections present various themes. There are allusions here to Nordic folk music, e.g. in the bourdon tone of the violin, which in one section is sustained for several bars.

The Piano Quartet, completed on Christmas Eve 1891, shows Amanda Maier to have been a composer of international calibre. It has four movements. The Allegro of the first movement is in sonata form and gets off to a vigorous start, followed, first by a languorous melody in the cello and then by the introductory theme again, which rapidly turns into a rhythmic motif. The second subject is lilting in character, but this is curtailed by a rhythmic section, while the development is dominated by cantabile melodies in folk idiom, sailing away on the violin. The recapitulation rises to a massive climax towards the end. The second movement, marked Andante, is almost sentimental in its romanticism. It evolves around two melodies, both of them in folk idiom, which are varied and several times repeated. Before the coda the composer has written ‘Erinnerungen an Hardanger 1891’ (Memories of Hardanger, 1891), and the movement ends with a melody resembling a herding call. The third movement, Presto con fuoco, has a robust introductory motif, which, together with the melodic passages that follow it, shapes the whole character of the piece. The final movement has a slow introduction escalating to Allegro vivace. Fast-moving motifs succeed one another, coupled with rhythmic sections. There is a beautiful melodic middle section, and the movement ends by recapitulating the fast-moving motifs with which it began. The Piano Quartet shows Amanda Maier to have been closely familiar with Brahms and with the chamber music of her time. The format is on the grand scale, the timbre Late Romantic.

Coda

The friendship between Edvard and Nina Grieg and Amanda and Julius Röntgen was lifelong. Edvard Grieg used to stay with the Röntgens when visiting the Netherlands. After Maier had composed her Piano Quartet in E minor, Grieg wrote to Julius Röntgen: ‘I can more than readily believe your dear wife to have composed a beautiful piano quartet, because I have always admired her talent!’ After her death, he wrote to Röntgen: ‘She was one of my favourites.’

Amanda Maier Röntgen’s name was virtually unknown to posterity until she and her music were rediscovered in the 1990s. Her brief career in Sweden and Germany was cut short by her marriage to Julius Röntgen and the birth of their two children. During the 1880s she was profoundly influenced by the chamber music of Johannes Brahms and Edvard Grieg, as is clearly apparent from her later output, which in quality is not far short of theirs. It is to be hoped that her music will come to be discovered and performed more widely.

Eva Öhrström © 2013
Trans. Roger Tanner

Bibliography

Dirk Loman, Abraham: Zur Erinnerung an Amanda Erika Röntgen-Maier, Mannheim, n.d.
'H.G.S.':
'Amanda Maier Röntgen', Idun, no. 33, 1896.
Jönsson, Åke: 'Violinvirtuos och musikpionjär', in: Historien om en stad, vol. 2, Landskrona 1800-1899, Landskrona: Landskrona kommun, 1995, pp. 151−156.
Karlsson, Åsa: 'Amanda Maier − violinvirtuos och Landskronaflicka', in: Landskronaprofiler, Landskrona: Landskrona museum 1994, pp. 38−43.
Lambour, Christian: 'Maier, Amanda', Sophie-Drinker-Institut.
Lundholm, Lennart: Amanda Maier-Röntgen: 20/2 1853 i Landskrona−15/6 1894 i Amsterdam: en bortglömd svensk musikprofil, Landskrona: [self-published], 1995.
−−−: 'Amanda Maier-Röntgen: första kvinnan som tog musikdirektörsexamen', Fotnoten, no. 2, 1992, pp. 14−15.
−−−: 'Amanda Maier-Röntgen: musiker, tonsättare, musikdirektör', Evterpe, no. 1, 1993, pp. 8−9.
−−−:'Amanda Maier-Röntgen – en bortglömd svensk musikprofil' [unpubl.].
−−−: 'Augusta Kiellander: "denna intelligenta, älskvärda personlighet, som var helt och hållet musik"', 1997 (unpubl.).
Norlind, Tobias: Allmänt musiklexikon, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1916.
Löndahl, Tomas: '"Jag gjorde min debut i Leipzig ganska bra"', liner notes to Amanda Maier et al., Kammarmusik, Musica Sveciae, MSCD 528-529, 1994.
Stavland, Hanna de Vries: Julius Röntgen och Edvard Grieg. Et musikalisk vennskap, Bergen: Alma Mater, 1994.
Vis, Jurjen: Gaudeamus. Het leven van Julius Röntgen (1855–1932). Componist en musicus, Zwolle: Waanders Uitgevers, 2007.
Öhrström, Eva: Borgerliga kvinnors musicerande i 1800-talets Sverige, diss. in musicology, Göteborgs universitet, 1987.
−−−: 'Amanda Maier Röntgen', in: Eva Öhrström & Beatrice Eriksson, Kvinnliga tonsättare. Ett axplock från 1800-talet till nutid, Stockholm: Stockholms stadsbibliotek, huvudbiblioteket, 1995, pp. 9−10.

Sources

Amanda Maiers arkiv, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Stockholm
Kungl. Musikaliska akademien Dep. Huvudarkivet A 1a:27, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Stockholm







Musikaliska Konstföreningens arkiv A:1:2 1871-1880, Riksarkivet, Stockholm

Summary list of works

Violin Concerto (in one movement), chamber music (including a violin sonata, a piano quartet, a string quartet, pieces for violin and piano and a lost piano trio) and songs. Also two works for piano and for violin and piano, together with her husband Julius Röntgen.

Collected works

Violin concerto
Concert für Violine mit Begleitung des Orchesters. Manuscript 1875.

Chamber music
Sonata for piano and violin. Stockholm: Musikaliska Konstföreningen, 1878.
Sechs Stücke für Klavier und Violine, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1879.
Quartette für Klavier, Violine, Viola und Violoncello, ms. 1891, published MCN, 2010.
String quartet in A-major. Manuscript.

Compositions together with Julius Röntgen:
Schwedische Weisen und Tänzen für Violine und Klavier. Leipzig: Bretikopf & Härtel, 1882.
Zwiegespräche. Kleine Klavierstücke. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1882.


Works by Amanda Maier-Röntgen

This is not a complete list of works. The following works are those that have been inventoried so far.

Number of works: 10