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Béla Bartók

March 25, 1881 - September 26, 1945
born in Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary, composed during the Modern period
Through his far-reaching endeavors as composer, performer, educator, and ethnomusicolgist, Béla Bartók emerged as one of the most forceful and influential musical personalities of the twentieth century. Born in Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary (now Romania), on March 25, 1881, Bartók began his musical training with piano studies at the age of five, foreshadowing his lifelong affinity for the instrument. Following his graduation from the Royal Academy of Music in 1901 and the composition of his first mature works -- most notably, the symphonic poem Kossuth (1903) -- Bartók embarked on one of the classic field studies in the history of ethnomusicology. With fellow countryman and composer Zoltán Kodály, he traveled throughout Hungary and neighboring countries, collecting thousands of authentic folk songs. Bartók's immersion in this music lasted for decades, and the intricacies he discovered therein, from plangent modality to fiercely aggressive rhythms, exerted a potent influence on his own musical language.

In addition to his compositional activities and folk music research, Bartók's career unfolded amid a bustling schedule of teaching and performing. The great success he enjoyed as a concert artist in the 1920s was offset somewhat by difficulties that arose from the tenuous political atmosphere in Hungary, a situation exacerbated by the composer's frank manner. As the specter of fascism in Europe in the 1930s grew ever more sinister, he refused to play in Germany and banned radio broadcasts of his music there and in Italy. A concert in Budapest on October 8, 1940, was the composer's farewell to the country which had provided him so much inspiration and yet caused him so much grief. Days later, Bartók and his wife set sail for America.

In his final years Bartók was beleaguered by poor health. Though his prospects seemed sunnier in the final year of his life, his last great hope -- to return to Hungary -- was dashed in the aftermath of World War II. He died of leukemia in New York on September 26, 1945. The composer's legacy included a number of ambitious but unrealized projects, including a Seventh String Quartet; two major works, the Viola Concerto and the Piano Concerto No. 3, were completed from Bartók's in-progress scores and sketches by his pupil, Tibor Serly.

From its roots in the music he performed as a pianist -- Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms -- Bartók's own style evolved through several stages into one of the most distinctive and influential musical idioms of the first half of the twentieth century. The complete assimilation of elements from varied sources -- the Classical masters, contemporaries like Debussy, folk songs -- is one of the signal traits of Bartók's music. The polychromatic orchestral textures of Richard Strauss had an immediate and long-lasting effect upon Bartók's own instrumental sense, evidenced in masterpieces such as Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta (1936) and the Concerto for Orchestra (1945). Bartók demonstrated an especial concern with form in his exploitation and refinement of devices like palindromes, arches, and proportions based on the "golden section." Perhaps above all other elements, though, it is the ingenious application of rhythm that gives Bartók's music its keen edge. Inspired by the folk music he loved, Bartók infused his works with asymmetrical, sometimes driving, often savage, rhythms, which supply violent propulsion to works such as Allegro barbaro (1911) and the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937). If a single example from Bartók's catalogue can be regarded as representative, it is certainly the piano collection Mikrokosmos (1926-1939), originally intended as a progressive keyboard primer for the composer's son, Peter. These six volumes, comprising 153 pieces, remain valuable not only as a pedagogical tool but as an exhaustive glossary of the techniques -- melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, formal -- that provided a vessel for Bartók's extraordinary musical personality. ~ Michael Rodman, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, etc.

Disc 1
Title: Dance Suite (Táncszvit) For Orchestra, Sz. 77, Bb 86a
Title: Hungarian Sketches (Magyar Képek), For Orchestra, Sz. 97, Bb 103
Title: Romanian Folk Dances (6) (Román Népi Táncok), For Piano, Sz. 56, Bb 68
Disc 2
Title: Music For Strings, Percussion & Celesta, Sz. 106, Bb 114
Title: Divertimento For String Orchestra, Sz. 113, Bb 118
Title: The Miraculous Mandarin, Suite For Orchestra, Sz. 73a, Bb 82 (Op. 19)
x

Track List: Bartok: Piano Music, Vol. 1

Title: Piano Sonata, Sz. 80, BB 88
Title: Suite For Piano, Sz. 62, Bb 70 (Op. 14)
Title: Bagatelle: Andante Sostenuto, For Piano (14 Bagatelles No. 8), Sz. 38/8, BB 50/8 (Op. 6/8)
Title: Sketches (7) (Vázlatok), For Piano, Sz. 44, BB 54 (Op. 9b)
Title: Hungarian Peasant Songs (15) For Piano, Sz. 71, Bb 79
Title: Hungarian Folksongs From Csík (3) (Három Csík Megyei Népdal), For Piano, Sz. 35a, Bb 45b
Title: Rondos (3) On Slovak Folktunes, For Piano, Sz. 84, Bb 92
x

Track List: Bartok: String Quartets

Disc 1
Title: String Quartet No. 1 in a Minor, Sz. 40, Bb 52 (Op. 7)
Title: String Quartet No. 3 in C Sharp Major, Sz. 85, Bb 93
Title: String Quartet No. 5 in B Flat Major, Sz. 102, Bb 110
Disc 2
Title: String Quartet No. 2 In A Minor, Sz. 67, Bb 75 (Op. 17)
Title: String Quartet No. 4 in C Major, Sz. 91, Bb 95
Title: String Quartet No. 6 in D Major, Sz. 114, Bb 119
x

Track List: Bartok: String Quartets 1-6

Disc 1
Title: String Quartet No. 1 in a Minor, Sz. 40, Bb 52 (Op. 7)
Title: String Quartet No. 3 in C Sharp Major, Sz. 85, Bb 93
Title: String Quartet No. 5 in B Flat Major, Sz. 102, Bb 110
Disc 2
Title: String Quartet No. 2 In A Minor, Sz. 67, Bb 75 (Op. 17)
Title: String Quartet No. 4 in C Major, Sz. 91, Bb 95
Title: String Quartet No. 6 in D Major, Sz. 114, Bb 119
x

Track List: Bartok: The 6 String Quarets

Disc 1
Title: String Quartet No. 1 in a Minor, Sz. 40, Bb 52 (Op. 7)
Title: String Quartet No. 3 in C Sharp Major, Sz. 85, Bb 93
Title: String Quartet No. 5 in B Flat Major, Sz. 102, Bb 110
Disc 2
Title: String Quartet No. 2 In A Minor, Sz. 67, Bb 75 (Op. 17)
Title: String Quartet No. 4 in C Major, Sz. 91, Bb 95
Title: String Quartet No. 6 in D Major, Sz. 114, Bb 119
x

Track List: Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra; Divertimento; Rhapsody No. 1; Dance Suite; Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta

Disc 1
Title: Concerto For Orchestra, Sz. 116, Bb 127
Title: Divertimento For String Orchestra, Sz. 113, Bb 118
Title: Rhapsody For Violin & Orchestra No. 1, Sz. 87, BB 94b
Disc 2
Title: Dance Suite (Táncszvit) For Orchestra, Sz. 77, Bb 86a
Title: Music For Strings, Percussion & Celesta, Sz. 106, Bb 114
Title: The Wooden Prince, Suite From The Ballet For Large Orchestra, Sz. 60, BB 74 (Op. 13)
x

Track List: Bartók: Mikrokosmos, Books 1-6

Disc 1
Title: Mikrokosmos, Progressive Pieces (153) For Piano In 6 Volumes, Sz. 107, Bb 105
Disc 2
x

Track List: Bartók: Out of Doors

Title: Out Of Doors (Szabadban), Suite For Piano, Sz. 81, BB 89
Title: Dirges (4) (Négy Siratóének), For Piano, Sz. 45, Bb 58 (Op.9a)
Title: Romanian Dances (2) (Ket Román Tánc), For Piano, Sz. 43, BB 56 (Op. 8a)
Title: Ten Easy Pieces (Tiz Könnyu Zongoradarab), For Piano, Sz. 39, BB 51
Title: Allegro Barbaro, For Piano, Sz. 49, Bb 63
Title: Hungarian Folk Tunes (3), For Piano, Sz. 66, BB 80b
Title: Burlesques (3) For Piano, Sz. 47, BB 55 (Op. 8c)
x

Track List: Bartók: Piano Music, Vol. 2

Title: Dance Suite (Táncszvit) For Orchestra, Sz. 77, Bb 86a
Title: Slovakian Boy's Dance (Tót Legények Tánca), For Piano (10 Easy Pieces No. 3), Sz. 39/3, BB 51/3
Title: Improvisations (8) On Hungarian Peasant Songs For Piano, Sz. 74, BB 83 (Op. 20)
Title: Petite Suite For Piano (arranged From 44 Violin Duos 28, 38, 43, 16, 36,& 32), Sz.105, BB 113
Title: Romanian Folk Dances (6) (Román Népi Táncok), For Piano, Sz. 56, Bb 68
Title: Sonatina For Piano (On Romanian Folk Tunes), Sz. 55, Bb 69
Title: Romanian Christmas Carols, Pieces (20) In 2 Series For Piano, Sz. 57, BB 67
x

Track List: Bartók: Sonata For Solo Violin, Sz 117; 44 Duos For Two Violins

Title: Sonata For Violin Solo, Sz. 117, BB 124 (edited By Yehudi Menhuin)
Title: Duos (44) For 2 Violins, Volumes 1-4, Sz. 98, BB 104
x

Track List: Bartók: Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin, Two Rhapsodies, Rumanian Folk Dances, Contrasts

Title: Sonata For Violin Solo, Sz. 117, BB 124 (edited By Yehudi Menhuin)
Title: Contrasts, Pieces (3) For Clarinet, Violin & Piano, Sz. 111, Bb 116
Title: Romanian Folk Dances (6) (Román Népi Táncok), For Piano, Sz. 56, Bb 68
Title: Rhapsody For Violin & Piano No. 1, Sz. 86, BB 94a
Title: Rhapsody For Violin & Piano No. 2, Sz. 89, BB 96a
x

Track List: Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin (Complete Ballet)

Title: The Miraculous Mandarin, Pantomime In 1 Act, Sz. 73, Bb 82 (Op. 19)
Title: Dance Suite (Táncszvit) For Orchestra, Sz. 77, Bb 86a
Title: Hungarian Sketches (Magyar Képek), For Orchestra, Sz. 97, Bb 103
x

Track List: Béla Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19 (Sz73) / Four Orchestral Pieces, Op. 12 (Sz51) / 3 Village Scenes, (Sz 79)

Title: 4 Orchestral Pieces, Op. 12
Title: Falun, Village Scenes (3) (Tri Dedinské Scény), For Female Chorus & Chamber Orchestra, Sz. 79, Bb 87b
Title: The Miraculous Mandarin, Pantomime In 1 Act, Sz. 73, Bb 82 (Op. 19)
x

Track List: Mikrokosmos

Title: Mikrokosmos, Progressive Pieces (153) For Piano In 6 Volumes, Sz. 107, Bb 105
x

Track List: Mikrokosmos (Selection) / Hungarian Peasant Songs / 6 Dances In Bulgarian Rhythm (Balasz Szokolay, Piano)

Title: Allegro Barbaro, For Piano, Sz. 49, Bb 63
Title: Hungarian Folksongs From Csík (3) (Három Csík Megyei Népdal), For Piano, Sz. 35a, Bb 45b
Title: Hungarian Peasant Songs (15) For Piano, Sz. 71, Bb 79
Title: Sonatina For Piano (On Romanian Folk Tunes), Sz. 55, Bb 69
Title: Rondos (3) On Slovak Folktunes, For Piano, Sz. 84, Bb 92
Title: Mikrokosmos, Progressive Pieces (153) For Piano In 6 Volumes, Sz. 107, Bb 105
Title: Dances In Bulgarian Rhythm (6), For Piano (Mikrokosmos Vol.6/148-153), Sz. 107/6/148-153, Bb 105/148-153
x

Track List: Zoltan Kocsis Plays Bartók

Disc 1
Title: Bagatelles (14) For Piano, Sz. 38, BB 50 (Op. 6)
Title: Elegies (2) (Két Elégia), For Piano, Sz. 41, BB 49 (Op.8b)
Title: Romanian Folk Dances (6) (Román Népi Táncok), For Piano, Sz. 56, Bb 68
Title: Sonatina For Piano (On Romanian Folk Tunes), Sz. 55, Bb 69
Title: Hungarian Folk Tunes (3), For Piano, Sz. 66, BB 80b
Disc 2
Title: Romanian Dances (2) (Ket Román Tánc), For Piano, Sz. 43, BB 56 (Op. 8a)
Title: Hungarian Folksongs From Csík (3) (Három Csík Megyei Népdal), For Piano, Sz. 35a, Bb 45b
Title: Allegro Barbaro, For Piano, Sz. 49, Bb 63
Title: Dirges (4) (Négy Siratóének), For Piano, Sz. 45, Bb 58 (Op.9a)
Title: Suite For Piano, Sz. 62, Bb 70 (Op. 14)
Title: Romanian Christmas Carols, Pieces (20) In 2 Series For Piano, Sz. 57, BB 67
Title: Studies (3) (Etudök) For Piano, Sz. 72, BB 81 (Op. 18)
Title: Rondos (3) On Slovak Folktunes, For Piano, Sz. 84, Bb 92
Title: The First Term At The Piano (Kezdok Zongoramuzsikáya), Teaching Pieces (18) For Piano, Sz. 53/BB 66
Disc 3
Title: For Children (Gyermekeknek), Teaching Pieces (85) Without Octaves In 4 Volumes For Piano, Sz. 42, BB 53
Disc 4
Title: Piano Sonata, Sz. 80, BB 88
Title: Out Of Doors (Szabadban), Suite For Piano, Sz. 81, BB 89
Title: Little Piano Pieces (9) (Kilenc Kis Zongoradarab), Sz. 82, BB 90
Title: Petite Suite For Piano (arranged From 44 Violin Duos 28, 38, 43, 16, 36,& 32), Sz.105, BB 113
Disc 5
Title: Mikrokosmos, Progressive Pieces (153) For Piano In 6 Volumes, Sz. 107, Bb 105