General information

Selected Reviews
Ross Bauer

Thin Ice

“In his excellent program notes, Andrew Waggoner asks the key question for a composer who writes a concerto: “what to do with the soloist?” This is a CD that showcases three contemporary American composers who are also members of the chamber orchestra Sequitur. The concertos for cello, solo bass clarinet, and oboe on this disc answer the question in different ways, which makes this disc an inviting experiment in the contemporary concerto.

Ross Bauer’s Thin Ice for cello and chamber orchestra was composed as a collaborative effort with cellist Greg Hesselink. It’s a work where the cello leads but is primus inter pares with the other instruments. It’s distinctive because of Bauer’s creative orchestration – especially the percussion – and the integration of jazz elements into the four-movement structure. The 23-minute work expresses moods – ‘Shadowy’ mimics the title by using percussive sounds. The ‘Adagio’ meanders searching for answers that the ‘Animato’ collaboratively resolves in a quiet ending.

 The soloists on this disc play superbly and their colleagues in Sequitur accompany with panache and passion. This is a disc that is inviting, jazzy, creative, and lots of fun.”    

Robert Moon, Audiophile Audition Webzine 

Bust a Flame

“Californian composer Ross Bauer introduced his piece, Bust a Flame, in honor of his son explaining that the title is the camping survivalist parlance for creating a fire from sticks and stones. The piece opens with a violin bow drawn slowly against the edge of a hanging cymbal, introducing a staccato electric guitar and a jazzy conversation between the piano and sax. The piece is a showcase not only for each of the ensemble’s considerable soloing skills, but for how they can dive back together into a seamlessly harmonious fusion.”

Julia Crowe, Classical Guitar Magazine

Piano Quartet

“Ross Bauer’s Piano Quartet, in its West Coast premiere, also pits the one against the many, ….. in this case three strings versus one pianist….The first movement features solos in which the violist, cellist, and pianist each take turns musing with minimal interference, and the second movement offers extensive space to an achingly beautiful violin solo (played by Ana Presler). By contrast, the third movement has the most tension, both rhythmically and timbrally, with dancing, fidgeting passages in the piano, and wailing tones in the strings…Bauer’s fifteen minute quartet has moments of great promise, such as a beautiful texture with a high cello lines in the last movement ….”

Jeff Rosenfeld, The San Francisco Classical Voice

This, That, and the Other

“As the very well-balanced program came to an end, however, it became clear that the most interesting work came through traditional formats: a chamber concerto for soprano sax, eight winds and percussion by Ross Bauer, and an enigmatic solo percussion work by Brian Ferneyhough.” Ross Bauer’s This, That and the Other was the other highlight. Victor Morosco excelled as the ‘jazzy soloist’ that the score calls for. His playing, if a bit rough in terms of rhythmic precision at the beginning, grew more and more persuasive as this spirited piece progressed. The last movement, in particular, left the public breathless as its bacchanalia of notes culminated in a surprising and energetic ending. Also worth mentioning is the beauty and precision with which the composer wrote for the soprano saxophone, which rapidly traveled to its virtuosic confines without ever sounding strained.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Miguel Galperin, The San Francisco Classical Voice


“Ross Bauer’s Tribute (2000) for cello and piano was written to celebrate the 80th birthday of composer Andrew Imbrie. It is a short piece — just five minutes or so — but packs a considerable amount of material and energy into its brief time span. Fontineau began it with a collection of short solo phrases. Only gradually does the part of the piano assimilate itself into the texture. The wonderful Eric Zivian entered with suave self-effacement, but his role gained independence throughout the work, until finally the two were glancing off each other in a driving sixteenth-note passage that led to the work’s dramatic coda. The concentration of material and the intensely compressed emotional arch make quite an impression.”

Eric Valliere, The San Francisco Classical Voice

“Bauer’s passionate music appeared to be a more direct tribute to the Imbrie concept of proud intellectuality. It displayed a grand sweep of emotional vista from start to finish. Much the same proved true when Kim tore into Kirchner’s rhapsodic violin solo. Both of these works had Standard Repertory sounding out from their every note.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Heuwell Tircuit, The San Francisco Classical Voice


“Bauer’s tender but serious short piece, played with flattering aplomb by flutist Mathew Krejci, was full of difficult intervals, rhythms, and approachable motifs.”

Patricia Beach Smith, The Sacramento Bee

String Quartet No. 3

“Bauer…writes in a musical language that has much in common with the expressionism of composers like Arnold Schoenberg. In his new quartet, the animated rhetoric of the music — much of the time resembling an agitated musical conversation — is continually engaging. Bauer’s skillfully crafted use of unisons and octave doublings throughout the first and last of the three movements provides punctuation within the ongoing musical dialog. Unison playing, on the other hand, is the major element of the central second movement. The piece has an attractive feeling of unity, largely because of the presence in the final movement of strong unison melody writing and rhythmic echoes of the second movement scherzo. Two passages in the work are especially striking. One occurs two-thirds through the first movement when closely spaced pianissimo chords are suddenly transformed into a strange, unusually colored tremolo cluster. The other is a passage of contrasting duets in the second movement, with the violins playing in the upper range and the viola and cello playing in quick, jagged rhythms. Much credit is due to Stanford Lively Arts for their role in commissioning and presenting this new work.”

Thomas Schultz, The San Francisco Classical Voice

“Stanford commissioned the String Quartet No. 3 by Ross Bauer, which got its world premiere on November 3rd. He is distinctive among today’s composers, with a sparse and atonal language influenced by the Second Viennese School, particularly by Anton Webern. In this nineteen-minute, three-movement work, Bauer builds on uneasy (almost nervous) cello-violin polarities in the first movement. The writing is so open that counterpoint plays a minor role. Viola legatos contrast with the skittish outer instruments.”

Paul Hertelendy,


“The first movement of Ross Bauer’s Third String Quartet (2000), which opened the program, was the most absorbing. A tense, dramatic dialog was conducted between the main melodic voice and an increasingly independent accompaniment. The scherzo that followed … (featured) longer notes emerging effortlessly from a chain of fast sixteenths.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Jules Langert, The San Francisco Classical Voice


“Romantic and impassioned where Quatuor VI had been provocative, mysterious, and playfully coloristic, Bauer’s trio in three seamlessly-connected movements was propelled by long sinuous melodic lines, frequently played in octaves by violin and cello. Much of the writing added an harmonic underpinning that gave weight and urgency to the expansive, upwardly-tending melodies. This was a subjective, instinctual kind of music. There were striking episodes — one with interlacing string harmonies and another with solo piano come to mind.”

Jules Langert, The San Francisco Classical Voice

“Motion,” written in 1998, is characteristic of a late 20th century style. Abandoning romantic leanings as well as clashing harmonies, one hears a certain amount of pleasant dissonance in the short, fragmented statements, to make the music come alive. Spice with eerie harmonies and duets for the strings, Bauer… received from the trio some very animated and joyful playing.”

Elsbet Wayne, The Berkshire Eagle


“In a program yoking together the old and the new, one work stood out at the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble concert last Monday in the Green Room at the Verteran’s Building. Pulse, by Ross Bauer, was given its first performance in a dramatic, clearly articulated rendition by Mark Brandenburg, clarinet, Kurt Rohde, viola, and Eric Zivian, piano.”

“In this 12-minute, single-movement piece there is an interplay between quiesscent lyricism and agitated hostility. The clarinet and the viola behave as Jekyll and Hyde, often dogging each other’s footsteps, sometimes reversing roles, occasionally playing a line in unison. The piano has a supportive part helping first one side and then the other. But in at least one place, the piano takes over, as a passage of accelerating, cascading figuration lands on an important climax. The piece ends satisfyingly but inconclusively, with the dichotomy unresolved.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Jules Langert, The San Francisco Classical Voice


“Ross Bauer’s interesting new bassoon concerto, Icons… managed to transcend those difficulties admirably — especially in the first movement, the most clearly and directly argued of the three. By interlacing dense orchestral episodes with sections in which the soloist’s music was highlighted, Bauer crafted an ongoing dialogue of real substance.”

Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle

“The last movement moved like the furies. The quick-changing coloristic displays…brought out the idea of a giant fireworks display. Icons was impressive, first note to last.”

Marilyn Tucker, The Journal

“..wastes no time in exploiting the instrument’s capacity for gruff lyricism and its timbral idiosyncrasies. Wilson lavished enormous dollops of color on her part and drew out lines with tremendous reserves of breath.”

Allan Ulrich, The San Francisco Examiner

“…subtle flashes of instrumental colors illuminating a busy but not heavy score…(the bassoon’s) high range was brought out effectively by the 21 minute work, with the orchestra often echoing or responding to her musical gestures. The slow movement’s doleful, lonesome song for her lyrical bassoon was the most effective part of the work…”

Paul Hertelendy, The San Jose Mercury-News

“This is a MAJOR work for bassoon and orchestra. It was commissioned by the Berkeley Symphony, conducted by Kent Nagano, and written as a showpiece for the principal bassoonist Carla Wilson. Bauer’s style is quite international—somewhat reminiscent of the works of Schoenberg and Berg, but with an American love of percussion and percussive sounds in the manner of Edgard Varese. One of its best qualities is how the composer has skillfully composed and orchestrated the work, which is for LARGE orchestra, but scored in such a way that the bassoon can still be heard over the texture. Bravo to Ross Bauer for providing us with this major solo work for the bassoon.”

The Double Reed, Journal of the International Double Reed Society

Ritual Fragments

“Soprano Susan Narucki’s distinctive timbre and penetrating lyricism were vital to the performance of Bauer’s Ritual Fragments (1995), which uses texts from an anthology of Native American songs and poems translated and edited by William Brandon. Filled with nature imagery, the texts are grouped around cycles of day and night and of the seasons. A greatly varied landscape of moods and textures was evoked by the accompanying six instruments, supporting and intensifying Bauer’s expressive vocal writing. The music was continuous, welded into an unbroken chain of nine songs by a series of imaginative and vibrantly scored instrumental interludes. Ritual Fragments was a beautiful and original work, heard in a performance imbued with poetic feeling and commitment.”

Jules Langert, San Francisco Classical Voice

“Ross Bauer’s “Ritual Fragments”, played at the end of the concert, used the instrumentation…with imagination and poetry.”

Paul Griffiths, The New York Times

“….most interesting in the cycle were the deftness and efficiency with which Bauer established a specific character for each song. These ranged from the slow-moving sensuousness of “The Rock,” set to an Omaha text, or the bouncing quality of a Quechuan fragment about a water bug, to the static nobility of an excerpt from the Navajo “Night Chant.”…Narucki lavished the part with such artistry that it proved gripping.”

Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle

Ritual Fragments is the more evocative setting, due to the imaginative use of percussion in the accompanying ensemble.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Phillip Scott, Fanfare CD review

Stone Soup

Stone Soup, an instrumental quintet, is one of the most often played of Bauer’s works. It exhibits an identifiable trait of the composer, namely his simultaneous juxtaposition of slow and fast music within the contrapuntal texture. Particularly active throughout is the lower end of the piano, etching out a vigorous, jagged line whose purpose is to anchor the highly chromatic harmony. A distinctive coloring is added by bass clarinet. (The lineup is that of Schoenbergh’s Pierrot lunaire).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Phillip Scott, Fanfare CD review


“Here for example, is a CD produced by the Empyrean Ensemble of UC Davis, founded 11 years ago as that campus’ Contemporary Music Players. The five chamber compositions on it by three composers on the Davis music faculty have a freshness, immediacy and originality that recommend them in any company (Centaur CRC 2386, 

Ross Bauer’s Octet (1994) for three winds and string quintet is, as the composer acknowledges, orchestrally conceived, keeping no more than four parts going. There’s no dense “where am I?” scramble, no thickets of the eight voices that are available to him. Knowing what not to do, that’s something. The texture remains open, the parts, themselves discrete, unfold at a generous, measured pace. The poise and balance allow the savoring of the music and reflecting in the calm, lyrical moments. Octet has exceptional clarity of purpose, with a real sense of the large arch shape of its single movement. This is a very expressive work with Brahms in the far distance, and in the near future, I shouldn’t be surprised, a version for orchestra.”
Robert Commanday, San Francisco Classical Voice

“Ensembles composed of clarinet, bassoon, horn and strings…are blessed with some of the great chamber music masterworks (Schubert Octet, Beethoven Septet) and many other fine compositions, including some excellent 20th century works. However, I rarely encounter a concert (or even a new recording) by such a group. If and when I do, I hope that the Ross Bauer Octet will be on it. The piece has the same instrumentation as the Schubert Octet. It is dedicated to the composer’s wife, bassoonist Carla Wilson. As such, it features the bassoon, but the composer says that it is “by no means a bassoon concertino.” Most of the important bassoon passages contain long, lyrical lines. It begins quietly with a solo bassoon entrance. For the most part it builds in speed and intensity until the final section, when the opening material returns, this time even more serenely. It ends very quietly with long sustained chords. The score is well marked, revealing the skill of the composer’s instrumental handling and his interest in timbre and balance.”

The Double Reed, Journal of the International Double Reed Society


“Lines of musical conversation cross over, smartly, in Ross Bauer’s Tributaries, for cello, piano and percussion. Feisty, interactive writing is key — one musician finishes another’s sentence, and all exude a seductive restlessness beneath the neatly structured surface.”

Josef Woodard, the Los Angeles Times

“Bauer’s ear for color is certainly one of his strong suits, even more so in Tributaries (1992), a single-movement trio for cello, piano, and percussion. Each of these three protagonists gets a turn in the spotlight; the percussionist performs a dazzling marimba solo.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Phillip Scott, Fanfare CD review


Highly Rubbery

“Its main action was in the shaping of a kind of duet between the high and low registers of the instrument. Lyrical, melodic writing in the upper range was complemented by a low-note punctuation of the line that added depth and rhythmic intensity. Later, there was a slow section with longer sustained notes plus added tremolos that created an effect of static oscillation. The finale was extremely agitated, with huge leaps and register changes taken at great speed, leading to a brilliant hurtling close. Peter Josheff gave a truly dazzling account of this demanding and difficult piece, composed especially for him.”

Jules Langert, the San Francisco Classical Voice


“Ross Bauer’s intriguing “Romanza,” commissioned by the Symphony and written specifically for Terrie Baune, showed ingenious use of orchestral color. By grouping disparate instruments, and overlapping sections of music, Bauer created unusual tones and eerie shimmers.”

Phyllis Roseblum, Santa Cruz Sentinel


“…rhapsodic enough as well but always in a high-octane, let’s-move-it way. It’s final movement, “Inward,” was exactly and very impressively that. In sum, Ross Bauer knew what he wanted to say and exactly how to say it. And the admirable Cyrus Stevens knew exactly how to play it.”

Richard Buell, The Boston Globe

“…strong emotional gestures behind the compositional shaping. There was a rhapsodic quality of the kind that violinists easily take to, along with a sense that event was leading to event in a necessary, cogent fashion. To these ears, the sense of inevitability in the workmanship has a curious and attractive mysteriousness in it. That may be a way of saying that your reviewer descried real substance in it, the unfakable genuine article, and would like to hear it again.”

Richard Buell, The Boston Globe

Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra

“The piece begins with a long, ruminative, generative cadenza for solo piano that set the tone for the most interesting things that followed, notably a dark, moody slow movement of considerable atmosphere – and formal interest. The rest of the piece continually sprang elegant surprises…”

Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe


“…as brightly colored as one might imagine from its title.”

Marilyn Tucker, The San Francisco Chronicle

“…showed a complex organization…yet it was very easy to listen to, with its sonic brilliance and soothing textures. The busy piece was like a platter with a lot of good seasonings. The work was an ebullient curtain-raiser, with many solos and uncommon sounds in the bass clarinet, tuba, piccolo and other exotica.”

Paul Hertelendy, San Jose Mercury News

“Vigor and animation marked Ross Bauer’s short overture, Neon, as light explosive puffs in the strings punctuated glistening exchanges between woodwinds.”

Phyllis Rosenblum, The Santa Cruz Sentinel

Oda al Olor de la Lena

“…it evokes the intense feeling of the poem…There is an appealing instrumental epilogue. Paul Hillier sang it well.”

William Glackin, Sacramento Bee

“…an impressive world premiere…exceptionally well written. It uses the low range of the alto flute, muted cello, the soft tones of a vibraphone and marimba to accompany the Baritone voice. It has a sentimental, moody atmosphere…excellent music.”

Clark Mitze, radio review KXJZ, Sacramento


“…obviously finely written, especially for its extensively ranging flute part…and the craft in its treatment of the supporting string trio and piano.”

Robert Commanday, San Francisco Chronicle

“…should surprise anybody who thinks contemporary music can’t sing or furnish lovely ensemble sounds. Focused on the expressive solo flute and alto flute…in lyric lines that rose from quiet beginnings, it gives lyric phrases to the others, too, before turning to the quick, busy figures of the middle section. The quiet finish is beautifully scored, with long lines for the flute and a nice ear for the blend underneath.”

William Glackin, Sacramento Bee


“…an aptitude both for extrovert gestures in the post-twelve tone, Stockhausen-influenced manner of piano writing and for delicate varied effects of color. The structure was weighty and real: it was possible to follow the argument as though one were reading a book. The piece stays in the memory as a thing distinctly achieved, a thing added to the world.”

Paul Driver, The Boston Globe


“…ably held the center of the concert’s first half…it proved one of those increasingly rare contemporary compositions that actually headed—and got—somewhere.”

Timothy Pfaff, The San Francisco Examiner

“Ross Bauer, particularly, demonstrated with his Chimera that an atonal piece can be appealing to tonally conditioned ears as well as interesting.”

William Glackin, The Sacramento Bee

Along The Way

“The scoring is expert and idiomatic; there are condensed, notey passages that have a bracing intensity and beauty.”

Anthony Tommasini, The Boston Globe

Concertino for Chamber Orchestra

“…an impressive piece of music.”

David Brokken, The Minnesota Daily

“…offers the musicians a rewarding task…”

Ernest Vermeulen, NRC Handelsblad (Amsterdam)

Chin Music

“…the writing is skillful, and the voice sure.”

Fisk, The Boston Globe



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