Search - Stefan Wolpe, Josef Matthias Hauer, Wladimir Vogel :: Music at the Bauhaus

Music at the Bauhaus
Stefan Wolpe, Josef Matthias Hauer, Wladimir Vogel
Music at the Bauhaus
Genres: Dance & Electronic, World Music, Special Interest, Classical
  •  Track Listings (26) - Disc #1


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An interesting program of discoveries, though it doesn't rea
Discophage | France | 03/20/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is an interesting program, though I am not sure it faithfully carries out the disc's project. The Bauhaus was the famous art, architecture and design school established in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius (Alma Mahler's second husband) in Weimar, Germany. It operated there until 1925, then moved to Dessau and then Berlin until its closure (guess why) in 1933. The liner notes, contributed by the pianist himself, Steffen Schleiermacher, start "with a bang": "Music was not a field of study at the Bauhaus". Yet some of the Bauhaus teachers were closely associated with composers, and some composers had connections with the Bauhaus. It is these composers that this disc seeks to document.

Josef Matthias Hauer (1883-1953) is a quaint figure of the history of music in the 20th century, famous (at least in the textbooks) for developing a system (apparently quite complex) for composing with the twelve tones of the chromatic scale, entirely independent from Schoenberg - and a few years before him at that. He did not get the public recognition of his fellow Viennese, though, and grew extremely embittered. He used to sign all his letters (and even had a rubber stamp made to that effect) "Josef Matthias Hauer, the intellectual originator and, despite many poor imitators, regrettably still the sole expert and craftsman of twelve-tone music". Except for the "12-tone Christmas" from 1943 - a terse, monophonic theme with simple variations, ending with upward arpeggios of almost Debussy dreaminess, making it all sound like a drop of Webern in nine measures of water - the pieces presented on this disc predate his seminal 1919 Nomos op. 19, in which he uses for the first time twelve-tone rows. I don't find them very distinctive. They are often sparse and chorale-like in texture, almost exuding an "insomniac" atmosphere; sometimes they go for the big statement (assertive left hand) that sounds rather hollow (try track 14), and at times they sound like the kind of music a modern Jazz musician might wearily improvise at the end of a long night (try track 13 or 16); but, other than the magnificent Brahms-like chorale that closes Tanz op. 10, they don't offer much in the way of a personal twist and turn that might catch the ear.

The link between Antheil and the Bauhaus is very tenuous. Young George (he was born in 1900) spent a year in Germany in 1922, where he met the young music critic Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt, who was apparently bowled over by his music. Stuckenschmidt spent some time at the Bauhaus the year after, Antheil's music may have been played there and a (finally unpublished) book of his was advertised in the Bauhaus book. That's about it. There is no trace that Antheil ever played nor went himself at the Bauhaus, or even in Weimar. The liner notes' contention that the "Little Shimmy" may have been "performed by the Bauhaus orchestra" is belied by the fact that it was written after Antheil's departure from Germany. Anyway, the two works we get here are significant of Antheil's production in those days - "mechanistic" pounding, short melodic/rhythmic cells with no development - but they are very short (3 minutes in all). Schleiermacher plays them excellently, but for the astonishing piano pieces of this composer it is better to go to complete collections, especially those of Benedikt Koehlen (George Antheil: Bad Boy's Piano Music and Piano Pictures: Satie Sports & Divertissements / Antheil La Femme 100 têtes).

The ties between Moscow-born Vladimir Vogel (1894-1984) and the Bauhaus are also more a matter of conjecture than established fact. "Einsames Getröpfel" and some of the 6 expressionistic pieces, written between 1917 and 1921, have a Scriabinian tinge - the perky "nettement désagréable" ("distinctly disagreeable"), the dejected "Lasse et plaintif" ("weary and plaintive"); the French grammar is Vogel's, not mine. They are usually terse and wry, not without a sense of humor (as the "clockwork" accelerations of "joyeux"), not very distinctive but evocative and interesting.

Stefan Wolpe was the only composer who effectively attended the Bauhaus, not as professor but as pupil. His compositions here presented display a variety of styles. His 1925 "Stehende Musik" is a short (3') and fascinating exercise in Antheilian pounding on jagged rhythms. The 1927 Tango and the 5 "Characteristic Marches" (these were composed on various occasions between 1920 and 1934 and later gathered together in a cycle) are rather evocative of Weill-Eisler-Dessau in style, but they also oddly anticipate Kagel's "Marches to desecrate a victory". The Adagio (1920) and Variation (1923) may be the most personal compositions of the lot - which doesn't mean the most appealing, the first advancing in stern and powerful but monotonous chordal blocks, the other couched in angular, march-like rhythms almost evocative on Conlon Nancarrow' studies for Player-piano.

Hans-Heinz Stuckenschmidt was first and foremost a musicologist and music critic, famous in Europe for his championing of the avant-garde and for his writings on Schoenberg and the New Viennese School; his ties to the Bauhaus are well documented. His published compositions are limited to three piano pieces, including this 1923 Dadaist "March of Alexander the Great over the Hamburg bridge", which draws an interesting stylistic link between Kurt Weill (and consequently Wolpe's marches) - the ironic and impertinent caricature of a military march - and Antheil (some aggressive right-hand clusters).

Schleiermacher is an useful pianist (also a composer) who specializes in contemporary music repertoire (Cage, Feldman) and the rediscovery of the forgotten modernists of the early 20th century.
Modern Pleasure
Wagner Gonçales | São Paulo, SP Brasil | 11/28/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Besides the incredible technic of Stefan Wolpe, with this work you'll be filled with all the modern influence from the begin of the century. For those who study and enjoy that crazy times it's essential."