About Jerzy Bauer’s work

(Fragment of a conversation with J. Janyst, published in Kompozytorzy łódzcy. Portret zbiorowy [Łódź Composers. A Collective Potrait]. Łódź 1994)

In Jerzy Bauer’s early oeuvre we can discern attempts to look for new sonoristic solutions, always, however, subordinated to the overriding idea of seeking to deepen the expressive side of his compositions. Reviewers spoke of the huge energy charge, dramatic clashes (Three Concepts), rapacious force (Three Essays), ardour and passion of this music (Invocazioni for violin and piano)..

Yet experimenting with new performing techniques was a brief and insignificant episode in Jerzy Bauer’s work, with the composer feeling much greater affinity with developing the achievements of past composers rather than with negating them. As he himself admits, he grew up admiring the great European music, admiring tradition, which was precisely the influence shaping his aesthetic sensibility. Fascination with music by, above all, Bartók, Ravel and Stravinsky as well as contact with the eminent personality of Nadia Boulanger brought Jerzy Bauer closer to the formal transparency and colour refinement of French composers rather than the work of the exponents of the Viennese School.

Questioning novelty as the overriding category in judging a musical composition, he found its sense in continuing the experiences of outstanding composers of the past, without, however, treating their oeuvres as a source of quotes or models to be imitated, but as impulses to create new, very personal statements. Among the various tropes, we can discern in Jerzy Bauer’s oeuvre clear references to Ravel’s music (Concerto for cello and orchestra, And yet… Habanera for harpsichord and guitar).

His Reminiscenze for organ contains explicit allusions to Messiaen’s rhythmic and motivic patterns (bird themes in the finale), disposition of sound material (emphasised tritone), as well as registration and characteristic colours of the work. Divertimento for percussion and two pianos – a colourful and lively piece – brings to mind associations with Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. Bauer’s music is also marked by strong archaising tendencies (Three Old Polish Passion Songs, Three Laments or Mediaeval Sculptures), yet the reference to a specific historical model is always enriched with expression emerging from the composer’s use of contemporary forms and genres.

Another characteristic feature of Jerzy Bauer’s compositions is the composer’s extraordinarily care in the construction of forms – any vagueness is alien to him. Jerzy Bayer found the basis for his works in traditional formal patterns and even though he used them flexibly, he always made sure that the form of each work would be clear to the listeners. The expressive aspect of his pieces is strongly influenced by the disposition of the sound material. In order to achieve a specific sonic atmosphere, the composer uses various methods of selecting this material, and the structures he creates typically focus on a few central points. His solo and chamber oeuvre is dominated by compositions for and featuring the guitar, many of which received prizes. In 1982 Jerzy Bauer wrote Sonata In One Movement for cello and piano with his son, an outstanding cellist, in mind. Two years later, this time in collaboration with his son, he composed Concerto for cello and orchestra and dedicated it to him.

Worthy of note among Jerzy Bauer’s vocal and instrumental works is Missa Pagana, in which the musical layer, subordinated to the text, is an original combination of liturgical means and pagan, exuberant delight in the beauty of the world as well as a profound reflection on its problems.