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Avant-Garde Art \ Bauhaus Reviewed 1919-1933 [LTMCD 2472]

This full-length CD explores the highly influential Bauhaus school of art and architecture, which operated in Germany between 1919 and 1933.

The spoken word element centres on a revealing talk by Walter Gropius, the architect and theoretician who founded the Bauhaus in 1919. The CD also includes contributions from the school's third and final director, architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and teacher Josef Albers. All interviews are in the English language.

The music content features piano pieces written between 1919 and 1925 by six composers associated with the Bauhaus: Arnold Schoenberg, Josef Matthias Hauer, George Antheil, Stefan Wolpe and H.H. Stuckenschmidt. Several of these reflect serialism and 12-tone technique; most are performed by Steffen Schleiermacher on piano.


Tracklist:

1 JOSEF MATTHIAS HAUER Phantasie Op. 17 (1919)
2. WALTER GROPIUS On The Origins Of The Bauhaus
3 STEFAN WOLPE Variation (1923)
4 WALTER GROPIUS On Form And Totality
5 GEORGE ANTHEIL Shimmy (1923)
6 WALTER GROPIUS On Klee, Itten, Kandinsky, Feininger and Moholy-Nagy
7 STEFAN WOLPE Stehende Musik (1925)
8 JOSEF ALBERS On Handling And Texture
9 WALTER GROPIUS On Albers And Functionalism
10. H. H. STUCKENSCHMIDT Marsch Alexander (1923)
11. WALTER GROPIUS On Selection And Students
12. ARNOLD SCHOENBERG Piano Piece Number 1 Op. 23
13. WALTER GROPIUS On Meyer And Mies Van Der Rohe
14. JOSEF ALBERS On Politics And Meyer
15. WALTER GROPIUS On Industrial Contracts
16. ARNOLD SCHOENBERG Suite for Piano Op. 25
17. WALTER GROPIUS On Utopianism
18. MIES VAN DER ROHE On Architecture As Language
19. WALTER GROPIUS On The Future Of Architecture

With a generous running time of 72 minutes, the album also features a deluxe booklet featuring archive Bauhaus images and historical notes by James Hayward.


Reviews:

"This excellent selection of recordings goes deep into the mythos of the Bauhaus school and the artists involved. The music is stunning and offers up some great examples of 12-tone and serial composition. A really unique disc which gives you a lot more than a simple history textbook" (Boomkat, 03/2007)

Bauhaus Reviewed 1919-1933 [LTMCD 2472]

Bauhaus is the common name for the Staatliches Bauhaus, the influential art and architecture school founded in Weimar (Germany) in 1919. Bauhaus style has become one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and interior design, while the school's pioneering teaching ethos still flourishes today.

During its fourteen year lifespan the Bauhaus operated in three cities (Weimer 1919-1925, Dessau 1925-1932 and Berlin 1932-1933), under three different architect-directors: Walter Gropius (1919-1928), Hannes Meyer (1928-1930) and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1930-1933). The dazzling array of international artists who taught there included Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Johannes Itten, Làszlò Moholy-Nagy, Lyonel Feininger, Oskar Schlemmer, Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer and Marcel Breuer.

In his founding Manifesto of 1919, founder Walter Gropius proposed that the Bauhaus should unite all artistic forms, promote the practise crafts, and contribute to a utopian whole: "Schools must return to the workshop... Let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us together desire, conceive and create the new building of the future. It will combine architecture, sculpture and painting in a single form, and will one day rise towards the heavens from the hands of a million workers as the crystalline symbol of a new and coming faith."

In 1923 Gropius introduced another core doctrine, namely the importance of the craftsman-artist-designer within the process of industrial mass production. The characteristic Bauhaus style was impersonal, geometrical and severely functional, but with a refinement of line and shape that derived from a strict attention to economy of means, and a close study of the nature of the materials. Within these principles the school evolved constantly, moving from the Expressionist flavour of Weimar to the Constructivist orientation at Dessau, and finally the architectural emphasis of late Dessau and Berlin.

The move from Weimar to Dessau in 1925 was forced by a local political change which cut funding. At Dessau the school was housed in a striking new building complex designed by Gropius, illustrated on the cover of this CD, which may still be visited today. Gropius stepped down as director in 1928 and was succeeded by Hannes Meyer, although Meyer's left-wing politics alienated the authorities, and in 1930 he was replaced by another celebrated architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

In addition to painting, sculpture, printing and textiles, the unity of art and technology pioneered at the Bauhaus expanded to include furniture, wallpaper, fittings and utensils, graphic design and typography. The department of architecture was opened relatively late, in 1926. Experimental theatre was also explored, and although music was never formally added to the curriculum, an ad hoc Bauhauskapelle (Bauhaus Orchestra) performed jazz and avant-garde repertoire, on instruments that included sirens, gunshots and found objects. Sadly no recordings survive. Paul Klee is known to have played his violin at several dances, and in 1928 Kandinsky staged Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition at Dessau, with abstract décor. Henry Cowell also performed at the school in 1931.

The last director of the Bauhaus, Mies van der Rohe, dissolved the Berlin school in July 1933 under financial pressure, and also hostility from the newly elected Nazi regime, who considered the Bauhaus a 'breeding ground for cultural Bolshevism', and its Modernist aesthetic degenerate. However, political catastrophe and closure served only to promote the spread of Bauhaus style, ideas and teachings, due to the emigration of staff and students to many countries, notably the United States.


Tracklist:

JOSEF MATTHIAS HAUER : Phantasie Op.17 (4.28)

Born in Wiener Neustadt (19.3.1883), the Austrian composer and theorist Josef Matthias Hauer pioneered a form of twelve-tone (zwölfton) composition independently of Arnold Schoenberg, although his reputation remains subordinate. In May 1919 Hauer met the Swiss painter and theoretician Johannes Itten, soon to become the most influential early Master at the Bauhaus. Both worked on synaesthetic theories and constructs by which tones were assigned to colours (Klangfarben und Farbklange), including colour circles and later a colour ball designed by Itten, which incorporated seven light stages and twelve notes. The pair contemplated founding a music school in Weimar to complement the Bauhaus, although nothing came of this plan. Written in 1919, Phantasie Op.17 was dedicated to Itten's wife, Hildegaard. An interest in Eastern mysticism and the Mazdaznan sect brought Itten into conflict with Gropius, and he left the Bauhaus in 1923, a split which also ended Hauer's contact with the school. At about the same time Hauer's simmering rivalry with Schoenberg finally came to a head. Like Schoenberg, his career was stymied by the ascent of Nazism, under which his Modernist music was denounced as decadent, and his scores included in a touring exhibition of 'degenerate' art (Entartete Künst). Together with Schoenberg and Theodor W. Adorno, Hauer inspired the character of Adrian Leverkuhn in Thomas Mann's famous novel Doktor Faustus. Hauer died in Vienna on 22 September 1959, leaving a vast and often metaphysical oeuvre, much of which has never been published or performed.

WALTER GROPIUS : on the origins of the Bauhaus (5.34)

Born in Berlin (18.5.1883), idealogue Walter Gropius studied architecture at the universities of Berlin and Munich, and in 1908 began work in the office of architect Peter Behrens, whose chief assistant he became. In 1910 he set up his own practice in Berlin with Adolf Meyer, although his work was interrupted by war service between 1914-18. In 1919 Gropius was appointed head of the art academy in Weimar, which subsequently became the Staatliches Bauhaus. He remained director until 1928, and designed the new Bauhaus building complex in 1925/26 following the relocation to Dessau. After 1928 Gropius returned to private practice in Berlin, and left Germany in 1934, practising in London before moving to American in 1937, where he headed the architecture school at Harvard until 1951 and confirmed his reputation as one of the leading architects of the 20th Century. Between 1915 and 1929 Gropius was married to Alma Mahler Werfel, widow of composer Gustav Mahler; he died on 5 July 1969. On this extract Gropius talks about his motives for setting up the Bauhaus school after the First World War, Utopian principles, the selection of staff (including Klee in particular), harmony of the arts, and the need for two different types teachers for form (artists) and technique (craftsmen).

STEFAN WOLPE : Variation (1.29)

Born in Berlin (25.8.1902) of Russian parentage, Stefan Wolpe attended the Berlin Hochschule für Musik in 1920-21, but failed to gain a place on Ferrucio Busoni's composition masterclass at the Akademie der Künste. Drawn to the avant-garde, Wolpe mixed with the Berlin Dada group, composed a Lecture on Dada, set Kurt Schwitter's tone poem Anna Blume to chromatic music, and was later associated with the Melos school and the Novembergruppe. In 1923 Wolpe attended lectures and exhibitions at the Bauhaus in Weimar. A believer in the social utility of art and music, Wolpe was deeply influenced by the Gropius-derived ethos of utopian socialism. The continual interplay of visual and sound imagery in Wolpe's thinking may well have its origin in multimedia experiments at the Bauhaus.

The only professional composer to attend the Bauhaus, Wolpe composed Variation in 1923, and dedicated the piece to Erwin Ratz, a former student of Schoenberg then acting as assistant-cum-secretary to Walter Gropius. In his invaluable 1976 essay Music at the Bauhaus, H.H. Stuckenschmidt wrote of Wolpe at Weimar: "Wolpe usually sat alone in a corner and wrote another of his ecstatic piano pieces that he dedicated to Friedl Dicker, a highly talented Bauhaus student, who came from Vienna and was close to Johannes Itten." Friedl Dicker, who Wolpe had followed from Berlin to Weimar, died in Auschwitz in 1944. Wolpe's other Bauhaus-era works included a Charleston dedicated to Làszlò Moholy-Nagy, under whom John Cage later studied in Chicago.

As a Jewish communist, Wolpe was forced to leave Germany in 1933. Following study with Webern in Vienna, he moved on to Palestine before emigrating to the United States in 1938. There his various teaching posts included a spell as Director of Music at Black Mountain College in 1952-56, and was a source of inspiration to Morton Feldman, David Tudor and others. Enactments (1950-53) for three pianos is considered his masterpiece, combining intellectual and spiritual depth. He died in New York on 4 April 1972.

WALTER GROPIUS : on form and totality (3.00)

For biographical details see above. On this extract Gropius talks about the need for a basic preparatory course for all students, and the impact of the industrial process on Bauhaus teaching methods.

GEORGE ANTHEIL : Shimmy (0.59)

Born in Trenton, New Jersey (8.7.1900) of German parents, the self-styled Bad Boy of Music's wilfully avant-garde music and performances were a reliable source of scandal both in Europe and America. Although Antheil resided in Berlin in 1922 and gave a number of performances in Germany, it is not known whether he visited Weimar or the Bauhaus. Nevertheless at this time he met regularly with H.H. Stuckenschmidt, who confirms that his music (Airplane Sonata, Death of the Machines) was known to the school, and performed by the avant-garde Bauhaus Orchestra. It is quite possible that Shimmy (aka Little Shimmy) from 1923 was one of the pieces performed. Antheil was associated with de Stijl and Theo van Doesburg, who based himself in Weimar between 1921-23 and enjoyed an ambivalent relationship with the Bauhaus. Indeed in 1927 the Bauhaus advertised a forthcoming book by Antheil, Musico-Mechanico, although this did not appear. Antheil spent the years 1923-32 in Paris, associating with artists and writers such as Igor Stravinsky, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Erik Satie, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, and in 1924 wrote his best known work, Ballet Mechanique, for eight pianos, percussion and aeroplane propellers. In 1936 the impoverished former enfant terrible relocated to Hollywood and became a composer of relatively tame film music, operas and ballets, as well as portmanteau work as a writer, inventor and lonely-hearts columnist. Antheil died in New York on 12 February 1959.

WALTER GROPIUS : on Klee, Itten, Kandinsky, Feininger and Moholy-Nagy (7.27)

For biographical details see above. Here Gropius talks about several teachers including Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger and Làszlò Moholy-Nagy, including details of his clash with Itten and the latter's resignation in 1923. Gropius also articulates the need to discourage imitation, and encourage beauty.

STEFAN WOLPE : Stehende Musik (2.59)

For biographical details see above. Although he destroyed most of his early works, Stehende Musik ('standing music') dates from 1925 and relates directly to his Bauhaus period.

JOSEF ALBERS : on handling and texture (1.37)

Painter and art theoretician Josef Albers (born 19.3.1888 in Bottrop, Westphalia) was a student at the Bauhaus from 1920 to 1923, and a teacher at the school from 1923 to 1933. Albers was placed in charge of the preliminary course after Johannes Itten resigned, becoming a Master in 1925. From 1930 he taught representational drawing to senior students, and during this period produced glass montages, glass pictures and designs for typography, furniture and utility items in glass and metal. In 1933 he emigrated to the United States, and subsequently held posts at institutions including Black Mountain College and Yale University, as well as remaining a keen propagandist of the Bauhaus aesthetic and establishing an international reputation as an abstract painter. Albers died in Connecticut on 26 March 1976. On this recording he talks about his changes to the preparatory course after Ittens' departure, and the importance of handling and texture.

WALTER GROPIUS : on Albers and functionalism (3.31)

For biographical details see above. On this extract Gropius talks about the teaching methods of Josef Albers, as well as individualism, community and functionalism.

HANS HEINZ STUCKENSCHMIDT : Marsch Alexander des Grossen über die Brücken von Hamburg (3.56)

Born in Strasbourg (1.11.1901), writer and composer H.H. Stuckenschmidt attended the Bauhaus at Weimar in 1923 at the invitation of Làszlò Moholy-Nagy. During the Bauhaus Week of August 1923, Stuckenschmidt supplied piano music for a mechanical ballet by Kurt Schmidt and G. Teltscher, performed as part of Das Mechanische Kabarett at the Stadttheater, Jena, on 17 August. Sadly no score survives, although the composer recalled that much of it was improvised in the style of his friend George Antheil. Parts of the lost Mechanical Ballet may have sounded similar to this piece, also written in 1923, which translates as The March of Alexander the Great Over the Bridges of Hamburg. An ironic parody, the title suggests a Dada influence, a Dada-Constructivist Congress having been held in Weimar in October 1922. Later a critic and author (although banned from writing during the Nazi era), Stuckenschmidt was professor of music history at the Technical University (Berlin) between 1955 and 1967, and is the author of an invaluable essay Music at the Bauhaus, first published in 1976. He died in Berlin in 1988.

WALTER GROPIUS : on selection and students (5.03)

For biographical details see above. Here Gropius talks about the advantages of a small student body, the rigorous Bauhaus selection process, and the benefits of co-operation. The piece also compares student unrest in the late 1960s with the Bauhaus laboratory experience four decades earlier. "The younger man is always closer to the future than the older man."

ARNOLD SCHOENBERG : Piano Piece *1, Op.23 (2.01)

Born in Vienna (13.9.1874), Arnold Schoenberg is renowned as an innovator of serialism, the twelve-tone (or dodecaphonic) method of composition, and by some as an enemy of tonality. The first three serial works (Op.23, Op.25 and Serenade) were written between 1920 and 1923; he was also a painter. Although Schoenberg never taught at the Bauhaus, on 27 October 1922 his influential Expressionistic song cycle Pierrot Lunaire was performed at a Bauhaus-sponsored concert at the Armbrust-Sall in Weimar, and in 1924 he joined the governing board of the curatorial 'Circle of Friends of the Bauhaus.' Schoenberg was also a close friend of Wassily Kandinsky, to whom he wrote in July 1922 that "Personally, I haven't much taste for all these movements. Damn it all, I did my composing without any 'ism' in mind." The pair collaborated on the operas Erwartung and Die Glückliche Hand (both 1924). His Piano Piece *1 (sehr langsam) was composed in July 1920 and subsequently included in Fünf Klavierstücke (Op.23). In 1925 Schoenberg took charge of the composition masterclass at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin (in succession to Ferrucio Busoni), but being Jewish was dismissed in 1933 after the Nazis took power and was forced into exile. Schoenberg went on to become an American citizen and a composer of profound influence, and died on 13 July 1951.

WALTER GROPIUS : on Hannes Meyer & Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (3.03)

For biographical details see above. On this extract Gropius explains the delay in establishing an architecture department, the choice of subsequent Bauhaus directors (Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) after 1928, political problems with Meyer, and the relocation from Dessau to Berlin in October 1932.

JOSEF ALBERS : on Hannes Meyer and politics (1.55)

For biographical details see above. Here Albers comments on the Bauhaus regime under Hannes Meyer, and on formalism and politics.

WALTER GROPIUS : on industrial contracts (1.50)

For biographical details see above. On this extract Gropius talks about the various industrial contracts undertaken by the Bauhaus, including wallpaper, furniture (Marcel Breuer), lighting fixtures, graphics and typography.

ARNOLD SCHOENBERG : Suite für Klavier, Op.25 (14.13)

For biographical details see above. Schoenberg's Suite for Piano (Op. 25) consists of five parts. Prelude and the beginning of Intermezzo were written in July 1921. The remainder were composed between February and March 1923.

WALTER GROPIUS : on utopianism (2.02)

For biographical details see above. Here Gropius talks about utopian concepts and the enduring legacy of the Bauhaus.

LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE : on architecture as language (3.23)

Born in Aachen (27.3.1886), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe worked under Bruno Paul from 1904 to 1907, and Peter Behrens from 1908 to 1911, after which we worked as a self-employed architect in Berlin. During the 1920s he produced pioneering designs for skyscrapers, villas and office buildings, and in 1929 built the German Pavilion at the Barcelona World Exhibition. Mies van der Rohe was the third and final director of the Bauhaus, from August 1930 until its final closure in July 1933, a period that included the enforced move from Dessau to Berlin. In 1937 he emigrated to Chicago, combining teaching with private practice, and designing highly influential modern designs which combined simplicity and clarity until his death on 18 August 1969. Like Gropius, some of his more monotone designs have been blamed for the stark ugliness of modern urban estate and high-rise housing. On this recording he talks on the subject of architecture as language, the need for correct grammar, and his own creative process. "I don't want to be interesting. I want to be good."

WALTER GROPIUS : on the future of architecture (3.03)

For biographical details see above. Here Gropius talks on the future of his profession, the evil of labels, and the impact of the machine on society.

James Hayward