Gregory Maytan

CDs

Scandinavia (Purchase at cdbaby.com)
Maytan’s first CD featuring works by Norwegian and Swedish romantic composers Amanda Maier, Tor Aulin and Edvard Grieg. This was the CD that earned Maytan the distinction of “CD of the Month” by Strad Magazine.

“This CD is both a revelation and a trio of performances of great artistry. It enables the listener to become acquainted with the virtually unknown works of three Scandinavian composers. It offers an inspiring example of the heights which two excellent musicians may attain when they play together with such skill and care that the two of them become one superb artist. Moreover, it introduces lovers of great violin playing to the beautiful, dynamic performance of a young player whose formidable technique coaxes from his instrument a powerful, warm sound in all registers.” (NCCV)

Scandinavia 2 (Purchase at Amazon)
A sequel to Scandinavia where Maytan performs the well-known third violin sonata by Edvard Grieg, as well as some shorter and beloved pieces by Jarnefeldt, Sibelius and Alfven. The most noteworthy work of the CD, however, is probably the Six Pieces for Violin and Piano by Amanda Maier, since this is likely the first recording ever of this work.

Faure, Chausson and Franck (Purchase at Amazon)
This CD features some of the most famous and loved French works ever written for violin and piano. All three works were written in Paris between 1870 and 1896 and reflect a lush, suave and virtuosic writing for both instruments.

Amanda Maier (available for purchase in November 2016)
This CD features three works by Amanda Maier that are world premiere studio recordings. The highlight of the CD is her one-movement violin concerto, written in Leipzig in 1875. It clearly shows the influence of composers such as Beethoven and Mendelssohn and is both a dramatic and lyrical work.

Composer Notes
Edvard Grieg (1843–1907) was born and raised in Bergen, Norway. He studied at the Leipzig Conservatory, and later lived in Copenhagen and Oslo (then called Christiania). He is not only Norway’s most famous composer, but a distinctively Norwegian composer. Owing to long periods of dependence and subjection first to Denmark and then to Sweden, Grieg was born into a Norway struggling to maintain its national identity. As a young man, Grieg set out to rectify this situation by giving Norway a repertoire of music grounded in the themes and timbres of traditional Norwegian folk music and yet sophisticated enough to merit performance in the best concert halls of Europe.

Grieg’s corpus includes three violin sonatas whose renown varies inversely with the order of their composition: the third is firmly ensconced in the standard violin repertoire, having been performed and recorded by virtually every great violinist; the second is moderately well-known, and is performed occasionally; the first is virtually unknown. The decision to record the first sonata was motivated in part by the opinion of Nicole and myself that its relative obscurity is by no means deserved.

Written in the summer of 1865, the piece reveals the young Grieg in the early stages of his nationalistic project. Grieg himself described it as “naïve and rich in ideals.” Here he is only beginning to break away from the Germanic influences acquired at Leipzig, and to incorporate elements of Norwegian folk music (his second sonata is much more obvious in this regard). Specifically, the trio of the 2nd movement imitates the hardanger fiddle (a Norwegian folk instrument) with its drone open strings in the violin. The first and third movements are both in sonata form, the development in the third being a fugue.

Amanda Maier (1853­–1894) was a woman of many talents. Mainly a violinist and composer, she was also an excellent pianist, cellist and music historian. She was the first woman to receive the degree of Music Director from the Stockholm Conservatory. She toured all over Europe as a violinist (frequently with her husband Julius Röntgen, also a musician and composer) and even performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Leipzig Gewandhouse Orchestra. Amanda and her husband were known to host frequent musical evenings in their home, where guests included Brahms, Grieg and Rubenstein. One evening, they played through the Brahms C minor quartet with Brahms at the piano! Grieg himself said of Amanda Maier: ‘I have always been an admirer of her talent.’

My teachers in northern Sweden introduced me to Maier’s work when I was fourteen years old. I quickly came to love the B minor violin sonata, as did the pianist with whom I learned it. When we later performed it at the Royal University of Music in Stockholm , we were surprised to find that nobody in the audience had ever heard it before, including two of my senior violin professors. Like the Grieg sonata, this is a relatively hidden gem of Scandinavian origin.

But, although Maier was born in Sweden and spent most of her life there, nothing about her sonata is distinctively Swedish, or even Scandinavian. In fact, one can hear in it more the influence of Schumann and Mendelssohn than anything else – a fact that may be explained by the fact that she wrote it in Leipzig around 1873. The first movement is in sonata form. Its character is dark, somewhat reminiscent of Schumann. The middle, slow movement is barcarolle-like in 3/8 with a three voicefugue in the middle. The last movement is a dramatic rondo with a triumphant conclusion.

Tor Aulin (1866–1914) is one of Sweden’s most beloved Romantic composers. As a violinist, he was concertmaster of the Swedish Royal Opera, and later became chief conductor of several prominent Swedish orchestras. He was also the first violinist of a famous string quartet, the so called ‘Aulin quartet’. Aulin also taught music. Among his students was the famous Swedish playwright August Strindberg.

Aulin’s “four watercolors” are very famous in Sweden, where they are frequently arranged for other instruments as well as for orchestra, but they are hardly known beyond its borders. Virtually every young Swedish violinist encounters these pieces sometime during their study. I first encountered them at thirteen, when I was assigned to learn the second “watercolor”, the Humoresk. The “watercolors” are distinctively Swedish, drawing, as they do, upon elements of Swedish life and culture. The first is intended to describe an idyllic country scene. To me, it brings to mind the beauty of the Swedish springtime, and captures something very pure and innocent about Swedish culture. The third evokes a similar ambiance: it is based on the kind of lullaby a Swedish mother would sing to her child after a long day working on the farm. The fourth is a polska, a popular and very festive Swedish country dance.

Armas Järnefelt (1869–1958), composer and conductor, was Finnish by birth and later became a naturalized citizen of Sweden in 1910, three years after he settled in Stockholm as conductor of the Swedish Royal Opera. Järnefelt studied at the Helsinki Institute of Music and later in Berlin, and in Paris with Massenet. Järnefelt’s talents as a conductor shone in his interpretations of the operas of Mozart and Wagner and the works of his friend Jean Sibelius (who married Järnefeldt’s sister). Järnefelt is credited with introducing Wagner’s music to Finland and bringing Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and Das Lied von der Erde into the Swedish concert repertory. A composer of Romantic Finnish national and patriotic style, Järnefelt’s short pieces Praeludium (1900) and Berceuse (1904) are among his best known works. Both originally written for small orchestra, Järnefelt later arranged Berceuse for violin and piano and piano solo.

Hugo Alfvén (1872–1960), composer and violinist, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, where he attended the Stockholm Conservatory for violin, composition, and painting. As a violinist, Alfvén played for the Swedish Royal Opera Orchestra from 1890 until 1892 when he decided to make his career in music. As a conductor, he directed many choral ensembles and church choruses. Alfvén’s works are mostly programmatic and often inspired by Swedish landscapes, folk tunes and folktales, and his travels through Europe. In his orchestral works, he achieves subtle timbres and harmonies of a paint-like quality.

Alfvén’s four movement concert suite Bergakungen (The Mountain King), adapted from its original form as a ballet-pantomime, is one of his greatest and most well-known works. The lively last movement of the suite, Valflickans Dans (Dance of the Shepherd Girl), was later arranged by Alfvén for violin and piano. The story of the suite is based on the legend Den Bergtagna about a shepherdess who is kidnapped by the mountain king and rescued by her boyfriend. A mountain troll they meet helps them out, but later becomes enraged after learning he will not have the shepherdess for himself, so he lets her and her boyfriend die in a snowstorm.

Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) has long been synonymous with Finnish national music. Born into a Swedish-speaking family in Finland during cultural and language conflicts, Sibelius later learned the Finnish language, defined himself through Finnish culture, and became a national voice for the people of Finland. Sibelius familiarized himself with Finnish legends, most notably the national folk-epic: the Kalevala. Drawing from characteristics of Finnish folk music and poetry, Sibelius created a modern Finnish musical style. From 1885 to 1889, Sibelius studied composition and violin at the Helsinki Institute of Music. Throughout the 1890s Sibelius continued to define his Finnish cultural identity and also developed these influences in his music.

Sibelius’s most notable works include seven symphonies, several tone poems (including the famous Finlandia), sets of incidental music and a violin concerto. The young Sibelius enjoyed playing chamber music at home with his brother and sister, who played cello and piano. Many of Sibelius’s first compositions were chamber works and have been described as “Haydnesque” in nature. His “Romance” (1915) from Four Pieces, Op. 78, No. 2, however, comes from Sibelius’s late compositional period. Often overlooked amidst his larger works, such as symphonies 5–7, the Romance for Violin and Piano in F Major is a short piece with elements of nostalgia and melancholy characteristic of the music of Sibelius and Finland.