Bartók

Bartók

[bahr-tok, -tawk; Hung. bor-tohk]
Bartók, Béla, 1881-1945, Hungarian composer and collector of folk music. He studied (1899-1903) and later taught piano at the Royal Academy, Budapest. In 1905 he and Zoltán Kodály began to collect folk music of Eastern Europe, and throughout his life Bartók devoted much attention to folk music of varied origin. As a composer he gained his first success with his mime play The Wooden Prince (1914-16). An opera, Duke Bluebeard's Castle (1911), and a ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin (1919), also gained notice. He became better known, however, for his compositions for piano, for violin, and for orchestra. Among his piano works are a set of progressive studies called Mikrokosmos (1926-39), three piano concertos (1929, 1931, 1945), and a sonata for two pianos and percussion (1927). Bartók's important orchestral works include Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) and Concerto for Orchestra (1943). Among his most important achievements are his six string quartets. Utilizing in varying degrees folk elements, atonality, and traditional techniques, Bartók achieved an original modern style, which has had a great influence on 20th-century music. In 1940 he emigrated to the United States and was commissioned by Columbia Univ. to transcribe a large collection of Yugoslav folk melodies. He spent his last years in poverty and neglect, but after his death his fame grew steadily. Among his studies of folk music that have been published in English are The Hungarian Folk Song (tr. 1931) and Serbo-Croatian Folk Songs (with A. B. Lord, 1951).

See his letters, ed. by J. Demeny (1971); biographies by H. Stevens (rev. ed. 1964), A. Fassett (1958, repr. 1971), and P. Griffiths (1984); study by E. Antokoletz (1989).

Concerto for Orchestra (Sz. 116, BB 127) is a five-movement musical work for orchestra composed by Béla Bartók in 1943. It is one of his best-known, most popular and most accessible works. The piece was written in 1943, the score being inscribed "15 August - 8 October 1943", and it premiered on December 1, 1944 in Boston Symphony Hall by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. It was a great success and has been regularly performed since. It is perhaps the best-known of a number of pieces that have the apparently contradictory title Concerto for Orchestra. This is in contrast to the conventional concerto form, which features a solo instrument with orchestral accompaniment. Bartók said that he called the piece a concerto rather than a symphony because of the way each section of instruments is treated in a soloistic and virtuosic way.

Composition

The work was written in response to a commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation (run by the conductor Serge Koussevitzky) following Bartók's move to the United States from his native Hungary, which he had fled because of World War II. It has been speculated that Bartók's previous work, the String Quartet No. 6 (1939), could well have been his last were it not for this commission, which sparked a small number of other compositions, including his Sonata for Solo Violin and Piano Concerto No. 3. Bartók revised the piece in February 1945, the biggest change coming in the last movement, where he wrote a longer ending. Both versions of the ending were published, and both versions are performed today.

Musical analysis

Bartók makes extensive use of classic elements in the work; for instance, the first and fifth movements are in sonata-allegro form. The work combines elements of Western art music and eastern European folk music, especially that of Hungary, and it departs from traditional tonality, often using non-traditional modes and artificial scales. Bartók researched folk melodies, and their influence is felt throughout the work; for example, the second main theme of the first movement, as played by the 1st oboe, resembles a folk melody, with its narrow range and almost haphazard rhythm. The drone in the horns and strings also indicates folk influence (see example).

The piece is scored for 3 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 3 oboes (one doubling cor anglais), 3 clarinets (one doubling bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (one doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, side drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tamtam, 2 harps and strings.

First movement

The first movement, called Introduzione by Bartók, is a slow introduction of Night music type that gives way to an allegro with numerous fugato passages. This movement is in sonata allegro form.

Second movement

The second movement, called Giuoco delle coppie or Game of the pairs by Bartók (but see note below), is in five sections, each thematically distinct from each other, with a different pair of instruments playing together in each section. In each passage a different interval separates the pair—bassoons are a minor sixth apart, oboes are in minor thirds, clarinets in minor sevenths, flutes in fifths and muted trumpets in major seconds. The movement prominently features a side drum which taps out a rhythm at the beginning and end of the movement.

Note that while the printed score has the second movement as Giuoco delle coppie (Game of the pairs), Bartók's manuscript shows it as Presentando le coppie (Presentation of the pairs). The printed score also has an incorrect metronome marking for this movement. This was brought to light by Sir Georg Solti as he was preparing to record the Concerto for Orchestra and the Dance Suite. Solti writes:

When preparing these two works for the recording I was determined that the tempi should be exactly as Bartók wrote and this led me to some extraordinary discoveries, chief of which was in the second movement of the Concerto for Orchestra. The printed score gives crotchet equals 74, which is extremely slow, but I thought that I must follow what it says. When we rehearsed I could see that the musicians didn't like it at all and in the break the side drum player (who starts the movement with a solo) came to me and said "Maestro, my part is marked crotchet equals 94", which I thought must be a mistake, since none of the other parts have a tempo marking. The only way to check was to locate the manuscript and through the courtesy of the Library of Congress in Washington we obtained a copy of the relevant page, which not only clearly showed crotchet equals 94, but a tempo marking of "Allegro scherzando" (the printed score gives "Allegretto scherzando"). Furthermore Bartók headed it "Presentando le coppie", (Presentation of the pairs) not "Giuoco delle coppie", (Game of the pairs). I was most excited by this, because it becomes a quite different piece. The programme of the first performance in Boston clearly has the movement marked "Allegro scherzando" and the keeper of the Bartók archives was able to give us further conclusive evidence that the faster tempo must be correct. I have no doubt that thousands of performances, including my own up to now, have been given at the wrong speed!|4=Sir Georg Solti|5=Liner notes from London LP LDR 71036, Bartók Concerto for Orchestra and Dance Suite, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, recorded January 1980

Third movement

The third movement, called Elegia by Bartók, is another slow movement, typical of Bartók's so-called "Night music". The movement revolves around three themes which primarily derive from the first movement.

Fourth movement

The fourth movement, called Intermezzo interrotto by Bartók, consists of a flowing melody with changing time signatures, interrupted by a banal theme which is a parody of the march from Dmitri Shostakovich's "Leningrad" Symphony (No. 7). The banal theme is itself interrupted by glissandi on the trombones and woodwinds. In this movement, the timpani are featured when the second theme is introduced, requiring 12 different pitches of the timpani over the course of about a minute. The general structure is "ABA–interruption–BA."

Fifth movement

The fifth movement, called Finale by Bartók and marked presto, consists of a whirling perpetuum mobile main theme competing with fugato fireworks and folk melodies. This is also written in sonata allegro form.

References

External links

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