MARION BAUER (1882 - 1955)
Marion Bauer was something of a Renaissance woman. Her important contributions to American musical life were as a composer, teacher, writer and critic; she was also a great supporter of her contemporaries, and wrote and lectured about their music. She must have been indefatigable.
Bauer was born on the West Coast of America, in Walla Walla, Washington, and studied in New York, Paris and Berlin. She was the first in a long and distinguished line of American composers to learn with Nadia Boulanger; the arrangement was a trade of harmony lessons for English ones. In 1911 she received a seven-year contract from the New York publisher Arthur Schmidt. At that time she wrote songs, piano pieces and chamber music, including Up the Ocklawaha (1913) for the well-known violinist, Maude Powell. Her piano suite From the New Hampshire Woods (1923) was inspired by the beautiful surroundings at the MacDowell Colony, where she spent much time composing and writing.
Bauer’s sister Emilie had been the New York music critic for The Musical Leader, and Marion took this over when Emilie died in 1926. She worked as a reviewer all her life, wrote for journals such as Musical Quarterly, and was the author of several books about music. Her Twentieth Century Music was particularly popular. She joined the faculty of the Music Department at New York University in 1926, and she worked there for 25 years, until 1951. She also taught at the Juilliard School of Music and at several summer schools. An avid supporter of American music, she was a founder member of the American Musical Guild in 1921, and she joined the executive board of the League of Composers in 1926. When Aaron Copland founded the American Composers Alliance in 1937, he invited Bauer to join its Executive Board. In all these positions she was the first or only woman.
Bauer’s parents had French origins and in her studies she was absorbed in French music. This gave her compositions a noticeably impressionistic flavour. Working, however, at a time when composers were searching around for new idioms, she was endlessly experimenting with her style. The result is music in a great range of idioms and moods; sincere and eloquent slow movements are her particular strength.