Philharmonisches Orchester Bremerhaven Deliver with Emilie Mayer Symphonies

In her day, Emilie Mayer was known as the “female Beethoven.” This was accurate, but no one was calling Franz Liszt the “male Clara Schumann.” And perhaps it’s that gender bias that’s kept Mayer’s music from finding its audience.

This release features two of Mayer’s eight symphonies. Mayer was active in the middle part of the 19th Century. Her Sixth Symphony, written in 1853 is comparable to those of Mendelssohn and Schumann.

The primary difference I hear is that Mayer’s symphony is denser and more complete than Mendelssohn’s. And it’s more tightly organized than Schumann’s. And I can hear the reason for the sobriquet.

Mayer’s chords and climaxes also remind me of Beethoven. Her motivic development also seems inspired by Beethoven. But inspired, not derivative.

Her Symphony No. 3 is subtitled “Sinfonie militaire.” The symphony premiered in 1848. It was Mayer’s first orchestral work to be performed in public. The military flourishes at the end must have been a real crowd-pleaser.

There’s a logical structure to this symphony, one that carries through from beginning to end.

Marc Niemann leads the Philharmisches Orchester Bremerhaven in some informed performances. His conducting illuminates the structure of Mayer’s compositions. At the same time, he encourages the orchestra to lean into the music. They emphasize the connection to Beethoven through the power of their playing.

A great recording of two Emilie Mayers symphonies. Perhaps the other six will be forthcoming?

Emilie Mayer: Symphony Nos. 3 and 6
Philharmonisches Orchester Bremerhaven; Marc Niemann, conductor
Hanssler Classics

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