Baur, Jürg (1918-2010)
Baur developed his individual and unmistakable musical idiom for the symphony orchestra. It has allowed him to effortlessly amalgamate the old and the new, and to derive new expressive resources from the traditional stylistic elements of the classical canon. Balance and synthesis form the stylistic core of Baur's symphonic output. He has consistently sought a balance between the classical tradition and the avant-garde of his time. This is most noticeable in his predilection for polyphonic writing, in which he fused classical counterpoint with serial structures. The reassurance he felt in his dealings with tradition kept him from making conspicuous compositional experiments; but it also guaranteed that his music remained lucid and comprehensible, something that has always been a major concern of Baur, who is profoundly respectful of the listener.
Photo © by Eduard Straub, Meerbusch
Baur, Jürg: Concerto da camera
Frankfurt a.M., Musikhochschule (Germany)
|1918||Born in Dusseldorf on 11 November|
|1927||First piano lessons with Adelheid Kroeber|
|1934||Organ lessons with Albert Thate|
|1937||Classical leaving-examination; beginning of musical studies at the|
|1938||Cologne Conservatory, composition with Philipp Jarnach|
|1945||Return to Dusseldorf after war service and Russian captivity; resumption of music studies in Cologne|
|1946||Lecturer in music theory at the Dusseldorf Robert Schumann Conservatory|
|1947||Artistic leaving-examination in composition|
|1948-51||Musicological studies at the Cologne University|
|1952-60||Choir-master of St. Paul's Church in Dusseldorf-Unterrath|
|1956||Advancement prize of the Young Generation Recklinghausen|
|1957||Robert Schumann Prize of the city of Dusseldorf|
|1959-65||Guest lecturer at the Evangelical State Church Music School of the Rheinland|
|1960||Rome feIlowship of the German Academy Villa Massimo|
|1965||Director of the Robert Schumann Conservatory in Dusseldorf|
|1968||Visit to the Soviet Union commissioned by the German Music Council; |
second Villa Massimo fellowship
|1969||Appointed Professor Bestowal of the Federal Distinguished Service Cross, first class|
|1971-90||Direction of a composition class at the Cologne Music Conservatory|
|1971-93||Chairman of the North-Rhine-Westphalian regional association of the VDMK (today DTKV)|
|1979||Second visit to the Soviet Union commissioned by the German Music Council|
|1980||Guest of Honour of the Villa Massimo|
|1984||Guest of Honour of the International Music Festival, Moscow|
|since 1988||Honorary member of the German Music Council|
|1990||Order of Merit of the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia|
|1994||Music Award of the city of Duisburg|
|1997||Music Award of the Gerhard Maasz Foundation for his entire ve Honorary ring of the German Schubert Society|
|2005||Honorary Member of GEMA|
|2010||died on January 31 in Düsseldorf |
Success is not only measured in numbers but also in the esteem one enjoys in public. As a composer, Jürg Baur is successful on both counts. His "Sinfonische Metamorphosen über Gesualdo" (1981) are approaching three-digit performance numbers, and other works for large orchestra which rank among his most prominent compositions have been performed dozens of times: "Musik mit Robert Schumann" (1972), the Mozart exploration "Sentieri musicali" (1990), the "Concerto Romano" (1960) and the "Second Violin Concerto" (1978). His latest orchestral work "Frammenti - Erinnerungen an Schubert" (1995), promises to achieve an equally wide acceptance. Many conductors have a high regard for Baur's orchestral music since it can be ideally integrated into attractive concert programs featuring the great symphonic works of the classical-romantic repertoire from Beethoven to Mahler.
Baur's symphonic music is the part of his output which is most often heard in concert life, even though it only constitutes about a third of his entire oeuvre. This distorted perspective is understandable since Baur developed his individual and unmistakable musical idiom for the symphony orchestra. It has allowed him to effortlessly amalgamate the old and the new, and to derive new expressive resources from the traditional stylistic elements of the classical canon. Balance and synthesis form the stylistic core of Baur's symphonic output. He has consistently sought a balance between the classical tradition and the avantgarde of his time. This is most noticeable in his predilection for polyphonic writing, in which he fused classical counterpoint with serial structures. The reassurance he felt in his dealings with tradition kept him from making conspicuous compositional experiments; but it also guaranteed that his music remained lucid and comprehensible, something that has always been a major concern of Baur, who is profoundly respectful of the late 20th-century listener.
Only the self-confident mastery of one's craft and a solid discipline can enable an artist to orientate himself on the needs of the contemporary musical market both with respect to being understood as well as to maintaining a sophisticated artistic standard. And Baur can claim to possess these virtues. His works for solo instrument and orchestra also betray an intense knowledge of the instruments' idiomatic expressive possibilities, a profound curiosity about refinements of sound and a sure feeling for what is possible on an instrument. He has composed for all the more common instruments and has supplied soloists with virtuoso parts which, however, are always anchored in a solid symphonic structure.
Of course, Baur does indulge in some experiments with sounds in his concertante pieces, for example in his "Concerto da camera" (1975) for virtuoso recorder and expanded chamber orchestra, in which he put to productive use - in a form now altered for a concertante setting - the experiences he had gathered in his early experimental works for recorder solo. But he never permitted himself such experiments in his purely symphonic works. They are dominated by a traditional orientation and by the preservation of an orchestral sound that has undergone only slight changes in more than half a century. Baur essentially writes for a late-romantic symphony orchestra. Only in the percussion has Baur sought to expand the traditional sound palette by incorporating the vibraphone, marimbaphone and tubular bells.
Jürg Baur has written progressive music mostly for smaller settings, for solo instruments and chamber ensembles. "Heptameron" for piano (1964/65), a sevenfold study on sound structures, "Mutazioni" for flute/alto recorder (1962) with its avant-garde performance techniques and the partly dodecaphonic and partly aleatoric "Abbreviaturen" for 13 solo strings (1969) reveal his masterful treatment of the modern composition techniques of the 1960s. Especially the "Quintetto sereno" (1957/58), which uses serial techniques and is close to aleatoric music, was a very early example of the composer's openness toward the musical avant-garde. However, Baur feels that in this domain, everything that must be said has already been said - including in his own works. The rigorous stylistic elements of the 1950s and 60s long ago lost their hold over his music. And the chapter has most likely already been closed on his piano music, his more ambitious organ music and choral music. He has only exceptionally written for these scorings in the last 20 years.
Baur has frequently used chamber music as a field of experimentation with tone colors, forms and programmatic concepts. Striking sound mixtures, for example in the "Divertimento" for harpsichord and percussion (1961/62), the "Tre studi per quattro" for recorder quartet (1972), the "Cinque foglie" for saxophone quartet (1986), the "Improvisation and Ostinato" for bassoon quartet (1996) and in the "Ritratti" for percussion ensemble, celesta and bass instrument (1983/84) confirm Baur's inventive richness and brilliant talent as an orchestrator. Many of these sketches, which often sound quite experimental, were later integrated in a modified form into larger symphonic contexts.
Two conceptional peculiarities of Baur's music which have become more and more pronounced over the past three decades also emerge from his two most prominent genres, chamber music and orchestral works: the rejection of standardized sequences of movements and the use of great works of the past as a source of inspiration for his own creative work. The replacement of the traditional four-movement cycle in symphonic and chamber works by imaginative sequences of pieces with generally programmatic headings reveals an attempt to bring about a balance of the traditional and the contemporary, hence to fill new forms with the sound of the late-romantic symphony orchestra or of the elegant chamber setting. Baur's teacher Philipp Jarnach had exhorted him to write forms that can be grasped at a glance and to always create a proper balance between content and sound; with his stunning mastery of these tenets, Baur has proven himself a truly outstanding student.
The conceptional borrowing from the music of the 18th and 19th centuries guarantees, in a sense, that his music will be seen as reflecting some of the lasting value of the great achievements of music history. The "Musik mit Robert Schumann", the "Sinfonische Metamorphosen über Gesualdo", the "Sentieri musicali" and the "Frammenti", as well as the "Kontrapunkte 77" (on Bach's Musical Offering), the "Quintetto pittoresco" (on music by Ravel) and the guitar piece "Marginalien über Mozart" are all creative approaches to universally recognized music of high quality. Baur aligns himself on them with his own oeuvre and understands himself as a composer of music that is new, yet still in the unbroken tradition of these works. The quotes from the past are transformed in Baur's personal musical language and serve as the point of departure for new and very personal creative projects. Most of these works were written for the great (bi-)centennial celebrations of the respective composers - an original and charming example of artistically sophisticated thought.
Baur has also passed on the individuality of his musical idiom and his multifaceted expressiveness with sounds as a composition teacher as well. He shows a formal awareness and compositional skill in old as well as new music, even electronic works. But he has never used his own compositions as study examples. Far from fostering any imitation Baurs, he has imparted to his students what he has always claimed for himself as a composer: to formulate a work of art as something special with one's individual and highly personal expressive musical means, and by remaining comprehensible all the while to the listener of today.
Jürgen Schläder (1998)
(Translation: Roger Clément)
Writings by Jürg Baur (Selection):
The Writings of Jürg Baur are collected in:
Baur, Jürg: Annotationen zur Musik. Ausgewählte Schriften, Aufsätze und Vorträge, hrsg. von Oliver Drechsel, Köln: Dohr 2003
Wege zum zeitgenössischen Chorstil, in: Der Chor 3/1951, Heft 4, S. 68ff.
Verteidigung der Kompositionslehrer, in: Melos 19/1952, Heft 8, S. 217ff.
Zwölfton und Volkston, in: Der Chor 5/1953, Heft 9, S. 131f.
Die Revolution der Blockflöte (Komponistenbriefe I), in: Instrumentenbau-Zeitschrift 17/1963, Heft 8, S. 363f.
Jürg Baur über Jürg Baur, in: Fellerer, Karl Gustav (Hrsg.): Rheinische Musiker, Folge 6, Köln 1969, S. 11f. (Beiträge zur Rheinischen Musikgeschichte, Heft 80)
Strawinsky und die Kirchenmusik, in: Musik und Kirche 41/1971, Heft 2, S. 89
Gedanken über Karlheinz Stockhausen, Anton Webern, Igor Strawinsky und John Cage, in: Kraemer, Uwe (Hrsg.): Komponisten über Komponisten, Wilhelmshaven 1972, S. 75f., S. 81, S. 198f., S. 214
Zum Phänomen "Neue Musik", in: Journal [der Hochschule für Musik Köln] 1/1982/83, Nr. 2, S. 2
Neue Musik für Liebhaber-Orchester aus der Sicht des Komponisten von heute, in: Das Liebhaberorchester 31/1987, Heft 1, S. 8-11
Komponisten nehmen Stellung, in: Dümling, Albrecht und Girth, Peter (Hrsg.): Entartete Musik. Dokumentation zur Düsseldorfer Ausstellung von 1938, Düsseldorf 1988, S. 270
Tonsetzer und Chorbewegung, in: Der Chor 2/1950, Heft 4, S. 49f.
Rhythmus und Takt in der Chorerziehung, in: Der Chor 2/1950, Heft 5, S. 73f.
Writings on Jürg Baur (Selection):
Breitkopf & Härtel published the volume "Jürg Baur - Aspects of his Work" in 1993 with contributions by Julius Alf, Volker Blumenthaler, Ulrich Halbach, Lutz-Werner Hesse, Helmut C. Jacobs, Dietrich Kämper, Rainer Peters, Arnd Richter, Almut Rößler, Hans G. Schürmann, Wolfgang Stockmeier and Hans Winking.
Dohr, Christoph: Ein viel gespielter Zeitgenosse. Jürg Baur feiert mit zahlreichen Konzerten seinen 90. Geburtstag, in: fermate 27 (2008), Heft 4, S. 39f
Drechsel, Oliver: Das Klavierwerk Jürg Baurs, Köln: Dohr 1998
ders.: Werkverzeichnis Jürg Baur, Köln: Dohr 1998
Falcke, Wilm: Zum Chorschaffen Jürg Baurs, in: Lied & Chor 8/1987, S. 170f.
Forsbach, Ruth: Jürg Baur, in: Forum Kirchenmusik 61 (2010), Heft 3, S. 34f
Fütterer, Michael: Jürg Baur. Portrait, in: Gema News 1982
Goslich, Siegfried: Jürg Baur, in: Schallplattendokumentation des Deutschen Musikrates 1982, 3/1009
Güdelhöfer, Matthias: Jürg Baur. Die späte Kammermusik, Köln: Dohr 2002
Krellmann, Hanspeter: Zu Besuch in einer Komponistenwerkstatt, in: Düsseldorfer Hefte 7/1963, S. 287-290
ders.: Der Komponist Jürg Baur. Versuch einer Werkdeutung, in: Die Volksbühne, Juni 1964, S. 20-23
ders.: Jürg Baur. Versuch eines Portraits, in: Düsseldorfer Hefte 23/1965, S. 37-41
ders.: Ich war nie Avantgardist. Gespräche mit dem Komponisten Jürg Baur, Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel 1968
ders.: Kalkulierte Visionen. Portrait des Komponisten Jürg Baur, in: Musica 6/1968,
Lang, Klaus: Gespräch mit Jürg Baur, in: NZfM 10/1983, S. 18-20
Lewinski, Wolf-Eberhard von: Musik in der Spanne zwischen Zwang und Freiheit. Portrait des Komponisten Jürg Baur zum 60. Geburtstag, Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel 1977
Peters, Rainer: Komponieren heute - Jürg Baur, in: NZfM 10/1983, S. 17f.
ders.: Eine gewisse gelassene Betrachtungsweise. Der Komponist Jürg Baur feiert seinen 70. Geburtstag, in: Neue Musikzeitung 6/1988, S. 6
Richter, Reinhold: Zwischen Tradition und Avantgarde – zwischen Zweifel und Hoffnung. Einige Notizen zur Chor- und Orgelmusik von Jürg Baur anlässlich des 85. Geburtstages im vergangenen November, in: Forum Kirchenmusik 54 (2003), Heft 6, S. 23-31
Scholl, Jutta (Hrsg.): Der Komponist Jürg Baur. Eine Dokumentation, Düsseldorf 1993 (Schriftenreihe der Stadtbibliothek Düsseldorf, Bd. 2), darin Texte von Bernd Kortländer, Hans Hubert Schieffer, Jürgen Schläder und Reinhold Schubert
Schürmann, Hans G.: Ein Avantgardist will er nicht sein. Gespräch mit dem Komponisten Jürg Baur, in: Neue Musikzeitung 2/1994, S. 54
ders.: Er war nie Avantgardist, aber ... Jürg Baur im Hinblick auf seinen 70. Geburtstag,in: Komponistenprospekt Jürg Baur, Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel 1988, S. 5-11 (ebd. auch englische Version)Wallerang, Lars: Die Orchesterwerke Jürg Baurs als Dialog zwischen Tradition und Moderne, Köln: Dohr 2003