The Felix Bauer Collection
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Felix Bauer (1914-2006)
Professor Felix Bauer was professor of art and music at Erskine College from 1946 until his retirement in 1979. Prof. Bauer was born in Vienna, and being of Jewish heritage, was forced to leave Austria during the Nazi Anschluss. During the 1930s, however, he studied with the great Austrian composer Alban Berg, and composed steadily from 1933 to 2003. Prof. Bauer tells his moving story in these excerpts:
"As an only child I lived with my parents in an apartment. We had a maid who had her own room in our home. Only German was spoken in our home, and only high German as my father was a college graduate (Realschule). We lived in VIIth Bezirk, Wimbergergasse 38. My grandfather had for many decades a hardware store at Burggasse. The only religious education I got was in the afternoon classes in both public school and Realschule. Being brought up during the Social-Democratic period in Austria's history, religion was a very minor concern. We did not keep kosher, but at the high holidays my father would go to a synagogue in the 8th Bezirk. My two best friends (for life) were non-Jewish. We knew that one was forced out of his job to join the early illegal Nazi Party. When I was already out of the country, he visited my parents in his SS uniform frequently until my parents made it clear to him that this was dangerous for him. In 1995 I flew with my daughter to Austria for this friend's funeral. We followed the events of Hitler's rise on the radio daily and, naturally, were frightened to death. But we were, like most of the Jews, completely powerless and stunned. My father lost his job as a Valuten-Kassler (cashier of foreign money) at the Bodencredit Anstalt where he had worked for more than 20 years. I had all my education finished before the Anschluss. My Abschlusszuegnis (certificate) from the Realschule, the various certificates of 1-1/2 years of the Technische Hochschule (Architecture), and my completion from the Graphische Lehr-und-Versuchs Anstalt. I realized the impossibility of ever getting a job with the daily increasing danger which made me determined to get a passbook. After staying in line for 3 weeks (every work day) and being exposed to the constant harassment at the office, I finally gave it up and went illegally over the Swiss border without any document. When I was gone, a neighbor in SA uniform called on my parents and said, "We got married and need a suitable home." He gave my parents a week to move out. That man was a former schoolmate whom I had tutored in the Realschule in order for him to make it with his limited brain. When Crystalnight occurred, I was already out of Austria. After I left Austria, eventually, my father was sent to the Iron Mountain, west of Leoben, for hard labor. I think my parents were sent to Thereinstadt and then to Auschwitz. On August 17, 1938 , I left by train to Felkirch and Hohenems, having only one carry-on with one change of underwear, a camera, and the equivalent of $10.00. I crossed the "Old Rhine" to the refugee camp in Diepoldsau. I was there two years. Having heard of the outcome of the AvienConference, where only the Dominican Republic offered refugees a place to work and stay, two Viennese friends and I applied for that. We went to Geneva, then took a train to Perpignan in the South of France; went by bus over the Pyrenees to Madrid and then by train to Lisbon, Portugal, where we saw the first clean and civilized city in a long time. We went by steamer to New York and waited at Ellis Island for 10 days. We took a ship to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. After a few days at the capital, we got our "cedula" (identification paper). After so many years, we felt like human beings again. I was in Sosua, a refugee settlement, from 1940-1946. I married Martha Mondschein Bauer, RN, who was from Cologne, Germany and trained at the Jewish Hospital there, on March 5, 1943. We, with our 1-year-old son, Boris, arrived on October 4, 1946 in Due West, SC. [Prof. Bauer and his wife had wished to emigrate to the United States, but that was difficult to arrange without support from inside the country. As it happened, Prof. Ernest Kanitz, who had been Prof. Bauer's counterpoint teacher in Vienna following his studies with Alban Berg, had formerly taught at Erskine, and assisted Prof. Bauer in obtaining his previous position.] Of my relatives, 27 died at Auschwitz or other extermination camps. One aunt and her family went to Israel and a cousin went to Australia after a short while in Israel."
Of his musical education Prof. Bauer relates the following: "In Vienna, 8 years piano; 1-1/2 years harmony with the Austrian composer Alban Berg, & 2 years counterpoint with Ernest Kanitz (Neues Wiener Konservatorium). I have consistently composed since before I left Austria. A number of my compositions have been performed, mostly at E[rskine] C[ollege]." Prof. Bauer's compositions are varied, and his techniques undogmatic. The many compositions in the collection range from 1933 to 2003, when Prof. Bauer's health forced him to cease writing. His own comments on his compositions and on the dilemma of increasing distance between composers and their audiences are:
"For three hundred years Western composers and audiences shared the same vocabulary for harmony, rhythm, and forms. The cozy, common-practice listening process came to an end in our century. Whereas composers from Bach to Brahms used the same working procedures more or less, the 20th century composers are challenged to enlarged musical possibilities. In our time there is a proliferation of musical languages and diversity: serialism, minimalism, tone clusters, musique concrete, aleatoric music, jazz, electronic music, etc. No wonder contemporary music has trouble finding an audience since virtually every composer uses a different musical language, with many of them rather startling to the listener. As for me, it is fascinating to experiment beyond serialism."