Music History 102:
Born: Nagyszentmiklós, now part of Rumania, March 25, 1881
Died: New York, September 26, 1945
Bartók began his musical studies as a boy and continued at the Budapest Conservatory. Initially attracted to the French impressionist school, Bartók soon became interested in collecting the actual melodies and rhythms of Hungarian folk music. Together with Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967), Bartók travelled throughout the Eastern European countries collecting and notating this music. The new harmonies, rhythms, and scales that he thus accumulated he began to incorporate into his original compositions. Although this music met at first with heavy criticism, eventually Bartók came to be regarded as Hungary’s leading nationalist composer. An example of his use of Hungarian folk rhythms can be heard in the last movement of his String Quartet no. 4.
In 1940, Bartók came to the United States to escape war-torn Europe and spent the rest of his life there. His music was not always understood or appreciated in America, however, and Bartók became depressed and unhappy living in New York. Nevertheless, he wrote some of his best-known works while in the United States, continually receiving commissions from various orchestra conductors. One of the greatest of these works is the Concerto for Orchestra, a virtuoso piece for orchestra which combines Bartók’s modern idioms with some of the energy and drive to be found in his beloved Hungarian folk music.
Music History 102: a Guide to Western Composers and their music
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