Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bela Bartok Virtual Exhibitions

The Bartok Virtual Exhibition

"The principal scene of my research has been Eastern Europe. As a Hungarian I naturally began my work with Hungarian folk music, but soon extended it to neighbouring territories—Slovakian, Ukrainian, Rumanian. Occasionally I have even made jumps into more remote countries (in North Africa, Asia Minor) to gain a broader outlook. …

From the very beginning I have been amazed by the extraordinary wealth of melody types existing in the territory under investigation in Eastern Europe. As I pursued my research, this amazement increased. In view of the comparatively small size of the countries—numbering forty to fifty million people—the variety in folk music is really marvellous! …

What can be the reason for this wealth? How has it come to pass? … Comparison of the folk music of these peoples made it clear that there was a continuous give and take of melodies … This give and take is not so simple as many of us might believe. When a folk melody passes the language frontier of a people, sooner or later it will be subjected to certain changes determined by environment, and especially by the differences of language. …

It is obvious that if there remains any hope for the survival of folk music … an artificial erection of Chinese walls to separate peoples from each other bodes no good for its development. A complete separation from foreign influences means stagnation: well assimilated foreign impulses offer possibilities of enrichment.

There are significant parallels in the life of languages and the development of the higher arts. English is impure in comparison with other Teutonic languages; about forty per cent of its vocabulary is of non-anglo-Saxon origin. Nevertheless it has developed incomparable strength of expression and individuality of spirit." …

Source: Bartók, “Race Purity in Music” (1942), Béla Bartók Essays, ed. Benjamin Suchoff (London, 1976), 29–31


“The 1908 Violin Concerto is still within the symphonic tradition, but the many small piano pieces of this period show a new, authentically Hungarian Bartók emerging, with the 4ths of Magyar folksong, the rhythms of peasant dance and the scales he had discovered among Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak peoples. The arrival of this new voice is documented in his String Quartet no.1 (1908), introduced at a Budapest concert of his music in 1910.

There followed orchestral pieces and a one-act opera, Bluebeard's Castle, dedicated to his young wife. Influenced by Mussorgsky and Debussy but most directly by Hungarian peasant music (and Strauss, still, in its orchestral pictures), the work, a grim fable of human isolation, failed to win the competition in which it was entered. For two years (1912-14) Bartok practically gave up composition and devoted himself to the collection, arrangement and study of folk music, until World War I put an end to his expeditions. He returned to creative activity with the String Quartet no.2 (1917) and the fairytale ballet The Wooden Prince, whose production in Budapest in 1917 restored him to public favour.” …

Source: The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music edited by Stanley Sadie
© Macmillan Press Ltd., London.

Photo credits: (c) Peter Bartok and the Bartók Archives of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Institute for Musicology, 2004-2005. Copyright controlled.


Bartók and World Timelines
A year by year alignment of Béla Bartók's life with events in the wider world
by Malcolm Gillies


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