Waldemar Edler von Baussnern – Hymnische Stunden (Hymnal Hours)
(b. Berlin, 29. November 1866 – d Potsdam, 20. August 1931)
Three Pieces for String Orchestra
German composer and teacher Waldemar Edler von Baussnern1 was born on 29 November 1866 in Berlin, Germany. As a descendent of Transylvanian Saxons, Baussnern grew up in Transylvania (Romania) and later in Budapest. His formal musical training, however, took place at the Berlin Musical Academy (Berliner Musikhochschule), where, beginning in 1882, he studied with Friedrich Kiel and Woldemar Bargiel.
Upon graduating in 1886, Baussnern held several positions as a conductor, composer, and music teacher throughout Germany, including the cities of Berlin, Cologne, Dresden, Frankfurt am Main, Mannheim, and Weimar. In 1891 he became the conductor of the Mannheim Musikverein and the Lehrergesangverein. After moving to Dresden, he conducted the city’s Liedertafel, the Bachverein, and eventually the Chorverein, which he founded in 1901. Beginning in 1903 he taught at the Cologne Conservatory and was also elected chairman of the Cologne Tonkünstlerverein. Upon leaving his duties in Cologne, he assumed the position of the director of the Großherzoglichen Musikschule in Weimar (now known as the Hochschule für Musik Franz Liszt)2 in 1909. Baussnern assumed the directorship of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main in 1916, a position he held until 1923. Returning to Berlin in 1923, Baussnern served as undersecretary of the Academy of Arts in Berlin. On 20 August 1931 he passed away in nearby Potsdam.
Baussnern left us a treasure trove of compositions: chamber music, choral works, operas, a variety of orchestral music, organ compositions, piano pieces, and approximately 200 songs. In addition to his original oeuvre, Baussnern completed Peter Cornelius’s opera Gunlöd in 1906, and he also published a collection of folk music titled Alte Volkslieder, dreistimmig gesetzt (Old Folk Songs for Three Voices) in 1913. Unfortunately, many of his compositions were not published in his lifetime, including his eight symphonies.3
In 1925 Baussnern’s Hymnische Stunden (Hymnal Hours) for string orchestra was one of his few compositions that was published. Contrary to what the title may suggest, this is a secular work consisting of three movements entitled „Prolog“ (“Prologue”), „Evangelium“ (“Gospel”), and „Dithyrambus“ (“Dithyramb”) respectively. The Prologue effectively sets the scene for the subsequent movements. Textures in particular anticipate the composer’s use of this compositional device in both the second and third movements. The second movement may be interpreted as a musical recount of redemption as it is relayed in the synoptic Gospels of the Bible. In contrast, the secular third movement celebrates the Greek god Dionysus, who symbolizes liberation, particularly as it relates to wine, ritual madness, and religious ecstasy. …
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