Emilie Luise Friderica Mayer (14 May 1812,[note 1] Friedland, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – 10 April 1883, Berlin) was a German composer of Romantic music. Although Emilie Mayer began her serious compositional study relatively late in life, she was a very prolific composer, eventually producing some 8 symphonies and at least 15 concert overtures, as well as numerous chamber works and lieder.
Emilie Mayer was the third of five children and eldest daughter of wealthy pharmacist, Johann August Friedrich Mayer, and wife Henrietta Carolina. Her mother died when Emelie was two years old. When she was five, she received a grand piano and was given music lessons. Seemingly destined for a domestic life, at the age of 28 her circumstances changed when her father committed suicide, leaving Mayer with a large inheritance.
In 1841, she moved to the regional capital city of Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland) and sought to study composition with Carl Loewe, a central figure in the musical life of the city.
Author Marie Silling writes:
The death of her father caused her first deep sorrow; in order to numb this pain, she buried herself in work. She went to Szczecin and became Löwe 's student. After a challenging test he said in his crafty manner: "You actually know nothing and everything at the same time! I shall be the gardener who helps the talent that is still a bud resting within your chest to unfold and become the most beautiful flower!" Emilie always considered it important to be thrifty in her own life but was continually giving to the needs of others. When, for these reasons, she asked Löwe whether she could share the composition lessons with other female pupils, he answered that "such a God-given talent as hers had not been bestowed upon any other person he knew." This statement filled her with the greatest thankfulness throughout her whole life and obliged her to work extremely hard.
In 1847, after the premiere of her first two symphonies (C minor and E minor) by the Stettin Instrumental Society, and with the urging of her tutor, she moved to Berlin to continue her compositional studies. Once in Berlin, she studied fugue and double counterpoint with Adolph Bernhard Marx, and instrumentation with Wilhelm Wieprecht.
She began publishing her works (e.g. Lieder and Chants, op. 5-7, in 1848) and performing in private concerts. Then, on 21 April 1850, Wieprecht led his "Euterpe" orchestra in a concert at the Royal Theatre exclusively presenting compositions by Mayer, including a concert overture, string quartet, a setting of Psalm 118 for chorus and orchestra, two symphonies and some piano solos. Shortly after this, she was awarded the gold medal of art from the Queen of Prussia, Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria. With critical and popular acclaim, she continued composing works for public performance. She traveled to attend performances of her works, including to Cologne, Munich, Lyon, Brussels and Vienna. As Mayer's instrumental works were being increasingly performed and her fame grew, she was appointed co-director of the Berlin Opera. Even so, she was often forced to meet the costs involved herself. While her male counterparts would often receive an honorarium from their publishers, Mayer still had to pay for publication of her works.
After Carl Loewe died in 1869 the Loewe society was formed. Mayer dedicated two of her cello sonatas to members of the society and their families. Her Op. 47 is dedicated to the Baron von Seckendorff from Stargard, and her Op. 40 is dedicated to the sister of composer Martin Plüddemann [de] from Kolberg.
The composer's grave at the Holy Trinity Church, Berlin
In 1876, Mayer returned to Berlin where her music was still frequently performed. Mayer’s new Faust Overture became a hit and she re-established herself as a significant figure in the city’s cultural circles. She died on 10 April 1883 in Berlin and was buried at the Dreifaltigkeitsfriedhof I at the Holy Trinity Church not far from Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn.
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