MU Symphony to premiere works by 19th-century female composer

May 2, 2019 GMT

HUNTINGTON — The Marshall University Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Elizabeth Reed Smith, will present the modern premiere of Emilie Mayer’s “Sinfonie Militair” in Marshall’s Smith Music Hall at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1.

Emilie Mayer lived in Berlin in the 19th century and enjoyed a fairly successful career for a woman composer of the time.

She composed eight symphonies, of which six are extant and several of which have been recently recorded.

“The Sinfonie Militair” has, however, languished in obscurity. Cincinnati musicologist Craig Doolin, who holds a masters degree in music history from Marshall, created a modern performing edition and complete score from manuscript parts. When he advertised for an orchestra to give the modern premiere, Smith jumped on the opportunity and requested that the Marshall University Symphony Orchestra be given the honor.


According to Doolin, the Marshall performance will be the American premiere and almost certainly the first performance since 1860.

“The quality of the music shows that Mayer’s music was probably neglected after her death simply because she was a woman,” Smith said. “The symphony is lovely and appealing, reminiscent sometimes of her contemporaries Mendelssohn and Schubert, sometimes of Mozart.”

Reed Smith, who is also the concertmaster for the Huntington Symphony Orchestra, said she found out about the possibility of doing the premiere through social media.

“It’s a pretty interesting project, and I just happened to luck into it when I saw one of our graduates post on Facebook that he was looking for an orchestra to do the modern premiere of this symphony,” Reed Smith said. “I jumped on it and scrapped the plans I had already made for our May concert. It was unusual for women to be composing symphonies and having them performed around 1850, and this piece is of remarkably high quality.”

The orchestra will also perform American composer Gwyneth Walker’s “Open the Door.” Written for the Women’s Philharmonic on the occasion of their 10th season in 1991, the work portrays the gradual opening of doors to women composers and performers.

The concert is free and open to the public, and is scheduled to run approximately an hour. For more information, contact the Marshall University School of Music at 304-696-3117.