Béla Bartók, classical music composer

Béla Bartók image

Béla Bartók

Biography

Considered to be one of the fathers of ethnomusicology, Béla Bartok was also an important musical figure in the early 20th century and, alongside Franz Liszt, Hungary's greatest composer. He was born on March 25, 1881, in a small town in the Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary, now a part of modern day Romania. Beginning in his early childhood, he displayed a keen aptness for music and according to his mother could distinguish between various dance rhythms she played on the piano before he had learned to speak in full sentences. By the age of five, his mother began giving him regular piano lessons. After his father's untimely death in 1888, Béla's mother took him and his sister to Pozsony (now Bratislava, Slovakia). There he gave his first public recital, at the age of eleven, which included one of his own compositions.

Beginning in 1899, he began studying piano with István Thomán, a former pupil of Franz Liszt, as well as composition at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest. As a student at the Royal Academy he met Zoltán Kodály who became a lifelong friend and colleague in the field of ethnomusicology. Bartók's passion for folk music was sparked during the summer of 1904 when he overheard a nanny singing folk songs to the children in her care. His compositions after this incident, such as the String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, began to show the influence of folk music. Later, in 1908, he and Kodály traveled through the countryside together collecting and researching Magyar folk melodies. Following their expedition, both composers set out eagerly to incorporate the exotic melodies they encountered in their own music, frequently quoting them verbatim.

Bartók continued his research into folk music, traveling into Moldavia, Wallachia and even Algeria. However, the outbreak of World War I put an end to his expeditions. Beginning with the 1919 Revolution in Hungary, Bartók began to have strained relationships with his homeland. Though he was fiercely loyal to Hungary and to its culture, he was no supporter of its new socialist government. By the late 1930s and with the worsening state of political affairs across the European continent, he was even more estranged from his country. He was strongly opposed to the rising Nazi party in Germany to the point of refusing to give concerts there and even breaking off relations with his publisher. This opposition drew the ire of the Hungarian government who had aligned itself with Nazi Germany. With regret, Bartók emigrated to the United States in 1940, settling in New York City.

Though he was already well-known in the U.S. as a pianist and ethnomusicologist, Bartók's reputation as a composer was scant and there was little interest in his music. Nevertheless, he continued to compose and his declining health during the 1940s spurred his creative activities. Symptoms of his ill-health first appeared in 1940 but the cause was not discovered until April 1944 when he was diagnosed with leukemia. With only a little over a year left to live, he managed to produce a handful of masterpieces: the String Quartet No. 6, the Concerto for Orchestra, the Piano Concerto No. 3, and the Viola Concerto (which was left incomplete at his death). Though he did not live to see it, the Concerto for Orchestra became his most popular piece. On September 26, 1945, Bartók died at the age of 64 from complications of leukemia. Initially interred in Hartsdale, New York, Bartók's remains were transferred to Budapest in 1988, at the request of the Hungarian government and his two sons, where he received a state funeral.


Composer Title Date Action
Béla Bartók Second Rhapsody for violin and piano 01/27/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Improvisations on Hungarian peasant songs, Op.20, Sz.74 03/16/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Three Popular Hungarian Dances 03/18/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Six Romanian Popular Songs 03/18/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Improvisations on Hungarian peasant songs, Op.20, Sz.74 03/21/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Two Portraits, Op. 5, No. 1 "Idealistic" Andante sostenuto 03/23/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Two Portraits, Op. 5, No. 2 "Distorted" Presto 03/23/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Piano Concerto No. 3 04/30/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Viola Concerto 08/06/2009 Play Add to playlist
Bela Bartok First Rhapsody: Prima parte, “Lassu” 03/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók String Quartet No. 2 in a minor, Op. 17 02/18/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Dance Suite 01/27/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Romanian Folk dances 01/15/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Quartet No. 2, Op. 17 (Parts 1 and 2) 01/19/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Burleszk, Op. 8/c, No. 1 01/20/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Romanian Folk Dances 01/09/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Suite Paysanne Hongroise 12/02/2009 Play Add to playlist
Bela Bartok Three Studies, Op. 18 01/26/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók String Quartet No. 5 07/21/2010 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Romanian Folk Dances 01/04/2011 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20 11/04/2011 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Sonata per due pianoforti e percussioni (I Tempo) 11/18/2011 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók String Quartet No. 1, Sz. 40 11/17/2011 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók String Quartet No. 4 02/03/2012 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Piano Sonata 01/24/2009 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Romanian Folk Dances 07/30/2012 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Romanian Folk Dances 11/12/2012 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók String Quartet No. 1, Sz. 40 12/22/2012 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók String Quartet No. 4 09/27/2011 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Concerto For Orchestra 03/24/2013 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Contrasts 04/09/2013 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Romanian Folk Dances 07/08/2013 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Sonata for Solo Violin, III: Melodia 09/22/2013 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók String Quartet No. 6 01/09/2014 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Rhapsody No. 1 01/16/2014 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta 03/23/2014 Play Add to playlist
Béla Bartók Romanian Folk Dances 09/24/2014 Play Add to playlist