String Quartet in g minor, Op.14
Emilie Mayer's Quartet in g minor is the only one of the seven that she wrote which was published in her lifetime and the only one given an opus number. It is difficult to know exactly when it was composed as she did not begin to publish her works until about 1860 and many of these were completed decades before their date of publication. Judging from the style, it seems likely the quartet was completed in the 1840’s. The opening movement, Allegro appassionato, is for much of its duration a stormy affair. The main theme features a dialogue between the first violin and the cello. The second movement is a fleet-footed, thrusting Scherzo with a gentler contrasting trio section. A lovely and deeply felt Adagio comes next. The high point comes when Mayer quotes the famous Bach Chorale “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten”. (Whoever lets only the dear God reign). The exciting finale, Allegro molto, breaks forth immediately, rushing here and there as it gallops along.
Emilie Mayer (1812-1883) was born in the German town of Friedland. Although she received piano and organ lessons as a child, she did not pursue a musical career as her widowed father needed her to help keep house for him. It was only upon his death at the age of 28 that she pursued formal studies moving to the city of Stettin (since 1945 Szczecin in Poland) where she took composition lessons from Carl Loewe, the City Music Director. Loewe considered her extraordinarily talented and as a result she worked extremely hard, dedicating herself to composition. On Loewe’s recommend she went to Berlin where she studied with Adolph Marx, then a leading teacher in theory and composition and a family friend of the Mendelssohns. It is through him that he introduced her to them and their circle of musical friends,. She was a fairly prolific composer, especially in view of the fact that she started to compose rather late. Among her many works number eight symphonies, six piano trios, two piano quartets, seven string quartets, two string quintets, seven violin sonatas, and twelve cello sonatas.
Emilie Mayer's quartet, though well received when performed in concert, did not enter the repertoire which it probably would have done if she had been a man. In our opinion, it is the equal of the quartets of Mendelssohn and Schumann. The fact that it was published two decades after it was composed did not help matters. Not only is this an historically important work by an excellent woman composer when few were writing. But it can stand on its own as a first class piece of work. It deserves to be heard in concert and certainly will be enjoyed by amateurs as well. We have reprinted the original edition but added rehearsal letters to aid performance.