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Bartok, Bela

We'll follow the life and musical development of one of Hungary's greatest composers to celebrate his 130th birthday.

Program 1

Bela Bartok was born in 1881 and grew up in Budapest, a city experiencing tremendous growth both in population and artistic creativity. Bartok was born in the small town of Nagyszentmiklos, which is now part of Romania.

He had a fairly conservative musical education, but was very inspired by the work of composer/conductor Richard Strauss, as well as a peasant girl from the Carpathian Mountains who sang traditional Hungarian folk songs. Bartok became a staunch Hungarian patriot and wrote a tone poem, Kossuth, in the style of Richard Strauss in 1904. Bartok got in trouble in its first rehearsal because of an excerpt in the bassoon parts that mock the Austrian National Anthem by Haydn.

Upon being inspired by the Hungarian folk music, Bartok began to make trips into the country to collect these songs. His friend and composer, Zoltan Kodaly, made many of these trips with him. The folk music began to make its way into Bartok's classical compositions, and in his String Quartet #1 in A Minor written in 1909, he incorporated the traditional song The Peacock

Bartók: Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta (excerpt)
Lon 430352

Bartók: ‘Unpublished’ Sonata for Violin and Piano (excerpt)
Szabadi, v.; Gulyás, p.
Hungaroton 31558

Bartók: Transylvanian Dance for Violin duo (excerpt)
Muzsikás and Márta Sebestyén, vlns.
Fono 571439

Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody #2 (excerpt)
Cziffra, p.
EMI 56228

Roby Lakatos
WQXR broadcast excerpts not commercially available
1:12, 1:04

Bartók: Andante for Violin and Piano (excerpt)
Pauk, v,; Jandó, p.
Naxos 8.550886

Bartók: Piano Quintet – II. Vivace (Scherzando)
Kodály Quartet & Jeno Jando, p.
Naxos 8.550886

Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra, op. 30: Einleitung (excerpt)
London 440618

Strauss: Ein Heldenleben (excerpt)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Barenboim
Erato 2292-45621-2

Bartók: Kossuth, Sz. 21
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Fischer
Philips 456575-2

Bartók: Fekete Föd (Snow-White Kerchief)
Basilides, s.; Bartók, p.
Pearl 9266

Bartók: String Quartet #1 In A Minor, III
Emerson Quartet
DG 477 6322


Program 2

After becoming increasingly fascinated by folk music, Bartok started traveling to Transylvania to collect their music. It's around 1911 that this folk music begins to regularly crop up in his classical pieces. 

Bill thinks it is difficult to get a sense of Bartok the man. Though he seemed happy and healthy, he had bouts of sickness and considered himself utterly alone despite having a group of friends.

Bartok was appointed a position at the Academy of Music in Budapest. It was here that he met his future wife, Marta Ziegler, student and daughter of the city police inspector. A year after meeting her, he dedicated a piece to her, and then his only opera, Bluebeard's Castle. This dedication is somewhat of an odd choice considering the story and tone.

Bartok's favorite place to visit for folk music later became Romania. In his opinion, Romania's greater isolation helped to keep their folk music pure.

Bartók: Violin Duo No. 4- Midsummer Night Song
Drucker & Setzer, vlns.
Biddulph 020

Bartók: Four Orchestral Pieces, Op. 12, III
NY Phil/Boulez
Sony 45837

Bartók: Allegro Barbaro, Sz. 49
Bartók, p.
EMI 55031

Bartók: Evening In Transylvania
Bartók, p.
Priceless 22719
Purchase Similar

Bartók: Hungarian Sketches (excerpts)
DG 435825

Bartók: String Quartet No. 2 (excerpts)
Takács Quartet
Lon 455297
:56, :42

Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle (excerpts)
Hungarian State Orchestra/Fischer; Ramey, bass; Martón, s.
CBS 44523

Bartók: The Wooden Prince, I-III
NY Phil/Boulez
DG 435 863

Bartók: Istenem (Coldly Runs The River), rec. 1928
Basilides, ms.; Bartók, p.
Gemm 9266

Bartók: 6 Romanian Folk Dances
Szigeti, v.; Bartók, p.
EMI 55031

Bartók: Hungarian Sketches, IV- Slightly Tipsy
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Boulez
DG 445825

Bartók: Burlesques No. 2, Slightly Tipsy
Bartók, p.
EMI 55031

The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) 
Tom Waits
Asylum 21375

Bartók: Violin Duo No. 5 – Slovakian Song
Drucker, v.; Setzer, v.
Biddulph 020


Program 3

Bartok's fascination in folk music of all sorts continues, and in 1913 he travels to Africa and becomes obsessed with music of the Berber people. This influece shows up almost immediately in Bartok's work, and he writes the violin duet Arabian Song. The same minor third motif is also used in Bartok's second string quartet which he composed in 1915.

The Great War begins in 1914, making it impossible for Bartok to travel and continue collecting folk songs. He writes that it "put an end to my work." 

In 1918-1919, Bartok composed The Miraculous Mandarin, a very lurid and creepy one-act pantomime ballet. It isn't performed until 1926, mostly due to political upheaval after the war. It is still more successful as a concert piece.

Jelly d'Aranyi, a violinst and former student, commissioned Bartok to write a violin concerto. Bartok was enamored with her, but they were never romantically involved. Maurice Ravel also met d'Aranyi and composed Tzigane for Violin and Piano for her. The title literally means "in the gypsy style."

After a 15-year marriage, Bartok divorced Marta and married another pianist, Ditta Pasztory. They remained together for the rest of his life and Bartok dedicated the Lullaby from Village Scenes to her.

Bartók: Violin Duo No. 42- Arabian Song
Drucker, v.; Setzer, v.
Biddulph 020

Bartók: String Quartet No. 2, II
Takács Quartet
London 455297

Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin Suite, Op. 19
Philadelphia Orchestra/Ormandy
EMI 47117 2

Bartók: Violin Sonata #2, I
Andsnes, p; Tezlaff, v.
Virgin Classics 45668

Ravel: Tzigane For Violin & Piano (excerpt)
Hope, v.; Knauer, lutheal
Warner 61329

Bartók: Village Scenes: Lullaby
New York Philharmonic/Boulez; Fuerstman, alto
Sony 45837

Bartók: Cantata Profana (excerpt)
Budapest Festival Orchestra & Choir of Hungarian Radio & TV/Solti
London 458929

Orff: Carmina Burana (excerpt)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Muti
EMI 73573


Program 4

In 1938, Bartok wrote Contrasts after being commissioned by American clarinetist Benny Goodman to write a piece for Goodman, Bartok and Bartok's close friend/violinst Joseph Szigeti. It debuted in 1938 at Carnegie Hall.

Paul Sacher, conductor of the Basel Chamber Orchestra in Switzerland, commissioned Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Sacher commissioned several works from composers who could no longer work in Nazi Germany, and this included Bartok.

Additionally in 1938, Bartok and his wife Ditta premiered Bartok's piece Concerto for Two Pianos in Basel, Switzerland.

Bartok: Violin Duo No. 34: Counting Song (excerpt)
Setzer, v.; Drucker, v.
Biddulph 020

Bartók: Piano Concerto #2, SZ 95 – 1. Allegro
Berlin Philharmonic/Boulez; Andsnes, p.
DG B0003885-02

Bartók: Contrasts – I. Verbunkos (Recruiting Dance)
Goodman, cl.; Bartok, p.; Szigeti, v.
Pearl 57

Bartók: Music For Strings, Percussion And Celesta, III & IV 
London 430 352-2

Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 2, I (excerpt), II 
CSO/Boulez; Shaham, v.
DG 459 639

Bartók: Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra, III
Concertgebouw/Zinman; Argerich, p.; Freiere, p.
Philips 416 378-2

Program 5

Bartok's last piece before leaving Eurpoe was Divertimento for Strings, commissioned by Paul Sacher. After Bartok's mother died, there was little keeping him in Hungary, and his violinist friend Jospeph Szigeti convinced Bartok and his family to move to New York.

Bartok became very sick while in the U.S., and while in the hospital, Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, commissioned the piece Concerto for Orchestra. This piece helped keep Bartok working despite his illness, which was eventually correctly diagnosed as leukemia. The piece premiered in Boston on December 1, 1944.

While not explored in this program, Bartok also wrote a multitude of children's pieces published under the title Microcosm.

Bartók: Divertimento for Strings, III 
Camerata Academica Des Mozarteums/Végh
Capriccio 10300
Purchase Similar

Bartók: Concerto For Orchestra, I 
London/Decca 400 052-2

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60 Leningrad, I
Live broadcast from July 19, 1942
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Toscanini
:28 (excerpt)

Lehár: “Da Geh’ Ich Zu Maxim” fr. Merry Widow (excerpt) 
Thomas Hampson, bar.
DG 459 658-2

Bartók: Concerto For Orchestra, IV & V 
London/Decca 400 052-2

Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 3, II & III 
L. A. Philharmonic Orchestra/Salonen; Bronfman, p.
Sony 66718

Bartók: Violin Duo No. 10 – Ruthenian Song 
Drucker, v.; Setzer, v.
Biddulph 020



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