BAUER: Orchestral and Chamber Works

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Marion Bauer (1882-1955)

A Lament on an African Theme, Op. 20a Concertino for Oboe, Clarinet and

Strings, Op 32b Trio Sonata No 1, Op. 40 Symphonic Suite, Op. 33

Duo for Oboe and Clarinet, Op. 25 American Youth Concerto, Op. 36

Marion Bauer was something of a Renaissance woman.

Her important contributions to American musical lifewere as a composer, teacher, writer and critic; she wasalso a great supporter of her contemporaries, and wroteand lectured about their music. She must have beenindefatigable.

Bauer was born on the West Coast of America, inWalla Walla, Washington, and studied in New York,Paris and Berlin. She was the first in a long anddistinguished line of American composers to learn withNadia Boulanger; the arrangement was a trade ofharmony lessons for English ones. In 1911 she receiveda seven-year contract from the New York publisherArthur Schmidt. At that time she wrote songs, pianopieces and chamber music, including Up the Ocklawaha(1913) for the well-known violinist, Maude Powell. Herpiano suite From the New Hampshire Woods (1923)was inspired by the beautiful surroundings at theMacDowell Colony, where she spent much timecomposing and writing.

Bauer's sister Emilie had been the New York musiccritic for The Musical Leader, and Marion took thisover when Emilie died in 1926. She worked as areviewer all her life, wrote for journals such as MusicalQuarterly, and was the author of several books aboutmusic. Her Twentieth Century Music was particularlypopular. She joined the faculty of the Music Departmentat New York University in 1926, and she worked therefor 25 years, until 1951. She also taught at the JuilliardSchool of Music and at several summer schools. Anavid supporter of American music, she was a foundermember of the American Musical Guild in 1921, andshe joined the executive board of the League ofComposers in 1926. When Aaron Copland founded theAmerican Composers Alliance in 1937, he invitedBauer to join its Executive Board. In all these positionsshe was the first or only woman.

Bauer's parents had French origins and in herstudies she was absorbed in French music. This gaveher compositions a noticeably impressionistic flavour.

Working, however, at a time when composers weresearching around for new idioms, she was endlesslyexperimenting with her style. The result is music in agreat range of idioms and moods; sincere and eloquentslow movements are her particular strength.

Bauer sometimes used elements of music fromother cultures in works such as Indian Pipes and in ALament on an African Theme, Op. 20a, of 1927. Itoriginated as the second movement of her StringQuartet, Op. 20 (1925). On the manuscript she says inparenthesis \Based on an African Negro Lament".

Martin Bernstein, her colleague at New YorkUniversity, orchestrated the work (c1935) and gave it itscurrent title. It is a descriptive piece, often with aprimitive, elemental atmosphere. The earthy beginninguses modal harmonies to suggest the mist over theAfrican plains. It travels through mysterious, and thenagitated sections, leading to a violent climax (markedbrutale), and finally sinks back to rest in the earth.

Bauer's Concertino for oboe, clarinet and strings,Op. 32b, was commissioned by the League ofComposers. The music is in a rich late romanticlanguage, with intense harmonies. The openingAllegretto expresses a gentle yearning, and Bauercreates an engaging flexibility from the expressive useof changing bar lengths. A mournful viola solo starts theslow movement; unusual intervals and rhythms createan unsettled, brooding effect. In the Finale a demonicgigue conjures up a goblin dance. Finally, after windcadenzas, all come together in a declamatory C minorconclusion.

The Trio Sonata No. 1, Op. 40, is the first of twotrio sonatas by Bauer; she uses the Baroque title toindicate conversational chamber music. She wasprobably writing for particular performers. Eachmovement is highly individual, the first creating abeautiful impressionistic atmosphere, the heartfeltmood of the second deeply moving, while the lastromps home with gleeful fun.

Bauer's family were Jewish. Some of them hadmoved from Europe to the United States in thenineteenth century, while others stayed in Alsace, andwere then slaughtered by the Nazis. The tragic mood ofthe first movement of her Symphonic Suite of 1940seems to express her deep sense of loss. An atmosphereof angst is established through unsettling chromaticintervals; the syncopated bass drags its feet in grief. Therichly resonant string sonority, the satisfying structure,and the eloquent release at the end make it a veryconvincing movement. The complex textures of thesecond movement create a claustrophobic atmosphere,particularly in the troubled, syncopated middle section.

The fugue Finale has a Bach-like vigour and rigour,using twentieth-century language. Bauer revels in thediscipline of the form, using various techniques such asinversion and augmentation.

Although their names are not known, it is likely thatBauer wrote her Duo for oboe and clarinet, Op. 25, forthe same performers as the Concertino. Writing for thespare texture of two single-line instruments is a boldmove, and Bauer succeeds impressively, with the musicnever suggesting the lack of a bass line. Bauer createscontinual interest from the dialogue between the oboeand clarinet, within the tradition of French windwriting. The jaunty discussion of the Prelude iscontrasted, in the second movement, with eachinstrument speaking in turn. The third movement has awarm country air, and the final Dance is like a pas dedeux, as the two instruments tango together.

The American Youth Concerto, Op. 36, written in1943, illustrates Bauer's enthusiasm for musicaleducation, and was written for the High School ofMusic and Art in New York. The music is unashamedlypopular, including a variety of American musical styles.

It appeals to teenage taste and is crafted for a talentedyouth orchestra. Although the language is familiar,Bauer avoids being corny by incorporating quirky turnsand unusual harmonies, perhaps like a favourite dishwith a dash of lime. The majestic opening unison andgrandiose piano arpeggios have Rachmaninov-likequalities; this is cleverly contrasted with an Allegrettomarch. The luscious Andante has a mixture ofimpressionistic and bluesy harmonies. As a kind ofparade of Americana, the Finale showcases severalpopular American styles to great effect - a Cakewalk, aBlues and a Hoe-down (with Bauer creating her ownunusual take on each), while also including highlyeffective instrumental writing.

Diana Ambache"
Item number 8559253
Barcode 636943925324
Release date 09/01/2005
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Ambache, Diana
Eban, Eli
Polmear, Jeremy
Snowden, Jonathan
Herbert, Judith
Composers Bauer, Marion
Orchestras Ambache Chamber Orchestra
Disc: 1
American Youth Concerto, Op. 36
1 A Lament on an African Theme, Op. 20a
2 I. Allegretto
3 II. Andantino
4 III. Allegro giocoso
5 I. Allegretto comodo
6 II. Andante espressivo
7 III. Vivace e giocoso
8 I. Prelude: Andante
9 II. Interlude: Comodo
10 III. Finale - Fugue: Allegro ma non troppo
11 I. Prelude
12 II. Improvisation
13 III. Pastoral
14 IV. Dance
15 I. Andante maestoso - Allegretto - Vivo
16 II. Andante ma non troppo
17 III. Allegretto
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