Buchman conducted Symphoria in the world premiere of Marion Bauer’s Symphony No. 1 in a program titled “Unheard No More.” The live performance was recorded at WCNY Studio in Syracuse on Oct. 15.
Buchman was given Bauer’s score at an International Conductors’ Guild conference in Montreal in February 2020. The Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy (WPA) had facilitated its editing into a performance edition. WPA advocates for the performance of women composers, particularly historic ones, and has started a publishing program to make some of these works available for performance.
“It caught my eye because it had a note attached, ‘has never been performed,’ even though it was composed in 1947-1950,” Buchman said. “Marion Bauer was a significant presence in American classical music in the first half of the 20th century; she taught at both NYU and at Juilliard, so the fact that her symphony was never performed seemed an egregious neglect of someone who should be celebrated.”
Buchman suggested to her contacts at Symphoria that they could do a concert around the idea of “Overlooked No More” centered around the Marion Bauer symphony — and that the concept could be recycled for any number of programs. Buchman also contacted Susan Pickett, the musicology scholar who wrote Marion Bauer’s biography and also prepared the performing edition of the symphony; Pickett sent Buchman the critical notes and confirmed that Symphoria’s performance was indeed the premiere.
“I’m speechless about having been the conductor to give the first performance of this piece, to bring it alive for the first time.”
Bauer’s symphony will also be performed this month by Seattle Collaborative Orchestra.
“The fact that it is receiving two performances after waiting for 72 years is a sign of the recognition that large works by historical women composers have been unjustly neglected, and efforts to reform are rapidly and very belatedly underway,” Buchman added.
Buchman said that Bauer’s Symphony No. 1 was supposed to premiere in November 1951 at the Symposium of American Orchestral Music at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. But three copyists who were creating the orchestral parts for the performers from Bauer’s full score did an “abysmal” job, and there were “literally hundreds of errors — notes misread, ties omitted, dynamics forgotten, even wrong instruments copied in the parts,” according to what Bauer wrote in the critical notes of the piece. The symphony was not corrected or completed in time for the premiere.
Citing a recent program on NPR’s All Things Considered on why it has taken so long for orchestras to program music by women composers, Buchman said, “I’m speechless about having been the conductor to give the first performance of this piece, to bring it alive for the first time.”