Béla Bartók

(1881—1945) Hungarian composer

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(b Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary (now Romania), 1881; d NY, 1945).

Hung. composer, pianist, and folklorist. Parents were musical and mother gave him his first pf. lessons. In 1894 at Bratislava (then Pozsony) studied with the cond. Laszlo Erkel until 1899 when he entered Budapest Royal Acad. of Mus. In 1902 heard a perf. of Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra which stimulated his powers of comp. to such a degree that he wrote his nationalistic tone‐poem Kossuth in 1903. By this time was travelling abroad as solo pianist in mus. by Liszt and other kbd. virtuosi. In 1905 began systematic exploration of Hungarian peasant mus. and in 1906, with his fellow‐composer Kodály, pubd. a coll. of 20 folk‐songs. In 1907 became prof. of pf. at the Budapest RAM. For the next decade, while his mus. was badly received in his own country, continued systematic coll. of Magyár folk‐songs. In 1917 his ballet The Wooden Prince was successfully prod. in Budapest and led to the staging in the following year of his 1‐act opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle (1911). In 1922 and 1923 his first 2 vn. sonatas had their f.ps. in London, and in 1923 comp. the Dance Suite to celebrate the 50th anniv. of the union of Buda and Pest. During the 1920s resumed career as pianist, composing several works for his own use. In 1934 was given a salaried post in the Hung. Acad. of Sciences in order that he could prepare his folk‐song coll. for publication. In the spring of 1940, in view of political developments in Hungary, emigrated to USA. This was not a happy time for him; his health began to fail, his mus. was infrequently perf., and there was little demand for his services as a pianist. Nevertheless the Koussevitzky Foundation commissioned the Concerto for Orchestra, Yehudi Menuhin a solo vn. sonata, and William Primrose a va. conc. (left unfinished but completed by Tibór Sérly). He died from leukaemia.

Bartók's mus. is a highly individual blend of elements transformed from his own admirations: Liszt, Strauss, Debussy, folk‐mus., and Stravinsky. Perhaps his greatest achievement lies in his 6 str. qts. in which formal symmetry and thematic unity were successfully related. But the melodic fertility and rhythmical vitality of all his mus. have ensured its consistent success since his death. Prin. comps.:


Duke Bluebeard's Castle A kékszakállù herceg vára

(), Op.11, 1‐act opera (1911, rev. 1912, 1918);

The Wooden Prince A fából fargott királyfi

(), Op.13, 1‐act ballet (1914–17);

The Miraculous Mandarin A csodálatos mandarin

(), Op.19, 1‐act pantomime (1918–19, orch. 1923, rev. 1924, 1926–31).



, sym.‐poem (1903);


, pf., orch., Op.1 (1904);

Suite2 Portraits

No.1, Op.3 (1905, rev. c.1920), No.2 (small orch.), Op.4 (1905–7, rev. 1920, 1943); vn. conc. No.1. (1907–8; 1st movt. rev. as No.1 of ), No.2 (1937‐8);

2 Portraits

, Op.5 (No.1 1907–8, No.2 orch. 1911);

2 Pictures

, Op.10 (1910);

Romanian DanceThe Wooden PrinceThe Miraculous Mandarin

, Op.11 (1911); 4 Pieces, Op.12 (1912, orch. 1921); Suite (3 dances), (1921–4); Suite, (1919, 1927);


Subjects: Music.

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