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celebrating two hundred and fifty years of music by women

Marion Bauer (1882-1955)

Bauer was an American composer, teacher and writer on music. She exchanged English lessons for harmony lessons with Nadia Boulanger, as her first American pupil. Bauer spent many productive summers at the MacDowell Colony where she met several other important American women composers such as Amy Beach, and becoming a close friend and supporter of Ruth Crawford. She taught and lectured widely, including at Juilliard, and, as the first woman on the faculty of the Music Department, at New York University (1926-51). She was widely respected for her ability to communicate about modern music and she considered education very important.

She experimented widely in her musical style; the result was music in a range of idioms and moods. In the 1920s she was described as a 'radical member of the musical left wing'; by the 1940s her style had become more impressionist. She used an intense harmonic language; sincere and eloquent slow movements were her particular forte. She wrote a large collection of vocal and instrumental, chamber and orchestral works. Bauer participated in many American musical organisations, including co-founding the American Musical Guild in 1921.

To hear Diana Ambache talk about Marion Bauer, click here

Click on these works for more details below:
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Concertino for Oboe, Clarinet & Strings, Op 32b. 1939/42
Allegretto; A minor. Andantino. Allegro giocoso; C major. 13 mins
The Concertino was commissioned by the League of Composers. As the adjoining opus number (Op 32a) is a Sonatina for oboe & piano, it is possible she was writing for a particular player. The music is in a rich late romantic language, with intense harmonies. The opening Allegretto is full of a yearning, and has an unusual flexibility got from the expressive use of changing bar lengths. A mournful viola solo starts the slow movement; unusual intervals and rhythms create an unsettled, brooding effect. The Finale, a demonic gigue, seems to imitate a goblin dance. Then after a declamatory interruption and wind cadenzas, all come together in a triumphant C minor conclusion. This work can be played with single or multiple strings. All the parts are good - every players has interesting things to say.
We gave the European Premiere (with the Lament ) in May 2003.

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A Lament on an African Theme, Op 20a 1927
Adagio lamentoso; G major. 6 mins
Bauer sometimes used elements of music from other cultures in works, as seen here. On the manuscript she says in parenthesis "Based on an African Negro Lament". It started life as the second movement of her String Quartet, Op 20 (1928); Martin Bernstein, her colleague at NYU, orchestrated the work (c. 1935) and gave it its current title. As this suggests, it is an elemental, primitive piece of highly atmospheric expression.
Here's the opening of the Lament, played by my Ensemble on her CD; it can be bought on the Ambache Recordings Bauer.

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Symphonic Suite, Op 34. 1940
1) Prelude: Andante; C minor. 2) Interlude: Commodo; F sharp minor. 3) Finale - Fugue: Allegro ma non troppo; C minor. 15 mins
Bauer had Jewish parentage; some of her family came from Europe to the US in the 19th century, while others stayed in Alsace, and were then slaughtered by the Nazis. The tragic mood of the first movement seems to express Bauer's deep sense of loss. An atmosphere of angst is established through unsettling chromatic intervals, and the syncopated bass, dragging its feet in grief. The lovely sonority of resonant strings, the satisfying structure, and the eloquent release at the end make it a very convincing movement. The second movement has a generally quieter sadness, although the syncopated middle section is again troubled. The Finale is a rigourous fugue, with a Bach-like vigour, but using 20th century language. Bauer revels in the discipline of the form, using various techniques such as inversion and augmentation. This is one of her few larger-scale compositions. It was premiered in Chautauqua, New York.
Here's the Finale fugue Symphonic Suite, played by my Ensemble on her CD, which can be bought on the Ambache Recordings Bauer.

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American Youth Concerto, Op 36. 1943
1) Andante maestoso - Allegretto - Vivo; G minor. 2) Andante ma non troppo; C major. 3) Allegretto; G major.14 mins
2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn, 4 hn, 2 tpt, 3 tbn, timps, perc, strings, piano solo.
Bauer wrote this piece for the High School of Music & Art, New York City, and was it premièred by them. This is another expression of her interest in education; the music is relatively easy to put together, has an enjoyable atmosphere of youthful exuberance and an American tang. She writes well for the large orchestra, shares round the tunes, and integrates the piano skillfully. The music is unashamedly popular, including a variety of American styles. The majestic unison opening is cleverly contrasted with the taut Allegretto march. The lyrical 6/8 rocking middle movement has a mixture of impressionist and bluesy harmonies. The Finale is a kind of parade of Americana, featuring a Cakewalk, a Blues, and finishing with a Hoe-down in high-spirits.
Here's the Andante from the Concerto, played by my Ensemble on her CD, which can be bought on the Ambache Recordings Bauer.
Hire score & parts from G Schirmer, 455 Bellvale Rd, Chester, New York 10918, USA (Tel: 914 469 2271). e-mail: schirmer@schirmer.com

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Duo for Oboe & Clarinet, Op 25. 1932
1) Prelude; 2) Improvisation; 3) Pastoral; 4) Dance. 9 mins. Oboe, clarinet.
Although their names are not know, it is likely that Bauer wrote this work for the same performers as the Concertino. The music is in the tradition of French wind writing, and Bauer creates continual interest from the dialogue between the two instruments. The jaunty discussion of the Prelude is nicely contrasted, in the opening of the second movement, with each instrument speaking in turn. The Pastoral has a warm coutry air, and the final dance, a tango, is a very clear pas de deux.
Here's the Dance from the Duo, on her CD, which can be bought on the Ambache Recordings Bauer.

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Trio Sonata No 1, Op 40. 1944
1) Allegretto comodo; 2) Andante espressivo; 3) Vivace e giocoso.9 mins. Flute, cello, piano.
This is the first of two Trio Sonatas by Bauer; she uses the Baroque title to indicate conversational chamber music. She was probably, again, writing for particular performers. The three movements are very contrasted - the first creates a beautiful impressionistic atmosphere. the heartfelt mood of the second is deeply moving, while the last romps home with gleeful fun.

For pieces which don't list another Edition, scores and parts can be ordered from Ambache.

The above Sound Clips from the Ambache/Bauer Naxos American Classics (2005) CD are free. Here are some comments on the recording: "All the performances sound both committed and played with genuine affection. The recording itself is crisp and detailed." Mark Morris, Music web

"The music here is melodic, charming, concise, folksy, and very accessible; it is certainly expertly crafted and without pretence. The committed performances are lucidly and vividly recorded." Colin Anderson, Fanfare

The CD costs £6, and can be got through the links on this page. You can order it, world-wide, using PayPal. It is NOT necessary to join PayPal, just follow the 'Don't have a PayPal account?' links and the system will process your credit card in the normal way.

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