Credit: Charlie Brown
Masters of Bauhaus on the roof at Dessau: (from left) Georg Muche, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Joost Schmidt, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Gunta Stolzl, and Oskar Schlemmer.
As every architecture student learns when confronting the Bauhaus, a group of visionary artists and designers gathered in Germany between the two World Wars. For 14 years, they applied themselves to theory and practice at a design school unlike any other. From Weimar and Dessau to Berlin, under the guiding voice of Walter Gropius, a cast including Josef Albers, Paul Klee, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe unleashed utopian modernism on a weary world in need of something new.
We've grown up revering the drawings, models, mantras, tubular steel chairs, and stern photos of the legendary Bauhaus practitioners, many of whom fled for their lives with the rise of Hitler's Nazi Party. But there's always been something missing from this old picture. Now, thanks to a Bauhaus CD, we can experience sound with the architectural fury.
The atonal strains of Josef Matthias Hauer's “Phantasie, Op. 17,” that open the disc transport listeners to the youthful 1920s experiment. The soirees, the irreverence, and the wit would have been accompanied by equally edgy tunes. On cue, Bauhaus Reviewed 1919–1933 (LTM Recordings) delivers a rat-a-tat piano track from Arnold Schoenberg, plus Dadaesque melodies from Hans Heinz Stuckenschimdt.
The audiobook laces music with taped recollections from the 1950s and '60s by Gropius, Albers, and Mies, who explain how they were trying to break down barriers and build a way-out world. No recordings survive from Bauhaus archives, but liner notes by James Hayward make a few connections. Hauer worked with Bauhausian painter Johannes Itten on a tonal color system. George Antheil's jazzy “Little Shimmy” lasts less than a minute but reflects the optimism of the era.
As Mies says toward the end, “The epoch is the only thing you can express.”
The price of modernist Muzak: The CD sells for about $20 at online sources such as www.cduniverse.com.
Sample the Bauhaus movement online with a free audio excerpt from Bauhaus Reviewed 1919–1933.
Track 4: Walter Gropius — "On Form and Totality" [.mp3]
Track 6: Walter Gropius — "On Klee, Itten, Kandinsky, Feininger & Moholy-Nagy" [.mp3]