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Bartók - Piano Music

Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was born in the small provincial town of Nagyszentmiklós, then Hungary (now Sânnicolau Mare in Romania). He received his first piano lessons from his mother, and showed great talent already at four years of age. He later studied piano and composition at the Budapest Royal Academy of Music. In 1902 he met Richard Strauss at the Budapest premiere of Also sprach Zarathustra, and about one year later Bartók´s own grandiose and nationalistic tone poem Kossuth was premiered. By this time, Bartók was also a renowned piano virtuoso, travelling abroad performing music of Liszt and other romantic composers. But when he became professor of piano at the Budapest Royal Academy, he more or less abandoned this career and spent more time composing and collecting folk songs from different parts of the world. Together with fellow composer Zoltan Kodály, he had systematically been collecting and recording Hungarian folk music, and now he went on to visit Turkey and parts of North Africa. In spite of Bartók’s preoccupation with Hungarian folk music, his work was at not at all appreciated by his own people. In the rest of Europe, however, his fame was rising quickly. Apart from the influence of folk music and the romantic heritage from Liszt and Brahms,
Bartók also adapted for his own purposes the methods of his contemporaries Strauss, Debussy and Stravinsky. All these elements combine to make his output extremely varied, vital and forceful, melodically and rhythmically. More than a quarter of Bartók’s output was for the piano. His educational work Mikrokosmos progresses from the very simple to the highly demanding, and explores almost all aspects of the piano’s potential.
The events of World War II forced Bartók to flee Hungary and emigrate to the USA. The fact that he was relatively unknown in this country, together with his failing health and a difficult financial situation, made Bartok´s last years unhappy. In 1945 he died of leukemia and was buried in New York. After the fall of Hungarian communism in 1988, his remains were transferred to Budapest to be given a full state funeral.

Notable works:
Opera - Bluebeard´s Castle
Ballet - The Wooden Prince
Pantomime - The Miraculous Mandarin
Orchestral - Concerto for Orchestra, two violin concertos
Chamber - six String Quartets, Contrasts for piano, violin and clarinet
Piano - Three piano concertos, Sonata, Out of doors suite, Sonata for two pianos and percussion. Educational: For Children, Mikrokosmos, Ten easy pieces

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Total pieces by Bartók: 11

TitleASTKey Published Type Level
Allegro Barbaro n/a 1911 Piece 8+
Suite Op. 14n/a 1918 Suite 8

Romanian Folk Dances:
Stick Game No. 1A Minor 1915 Piece 5
Peasant Costume No. 2D Minor 1915 Piece 2
Standing Still No. 3B Minor 1915 Piece 5
Song of the Mountain Horn No. 4A Minor 1915 Piece 4
A Garden Gate in Romania No. 5D Major 1915 Piece 5
Little One No. 6D Major 1915 Piece 6

Etude Op. 18 No. 1n/a 1920 Study 8+
Etude Op. 18 No. 2n/a 1920 Study 8+
Etude Op. 18 No. 3n/a 1920 Study 8+

Posts in the piano forum about Bartók:

xx Question for Bartok lovers
October 18, 2006, 10:10:04 AM by justliam

First of all, I haven't visited this forum in ages lol, so I will have to come back tonight for a couple of hours and trawl through recent stuff lol.  Secondly, How many Romanian Dances are there? I know of 6 that are often played together, are there other Opus of Romanian Dances as well? Because I'm sure there are more than those 6, I have done a search on the forum but I couldn't find anything. Thanks.

xx Re: Bartok
March 10, 2005, 01:45:32 AM by lostinidlewonder

I agree with the Bartok Sonatas, I have seen people jump out of their seats after a good peformance of it, although very very tough. It is played in international competitions quite often.

His Roumanian Dance (1911) with 2 movements is absolutely fantastic, still very tonal though. Better than his more popular 6 movement one in my opinion. has midi recordings of them both. I've played before, always with great response.

xx Bartok
March 10, 2005, 12:23:51 AM by fnork

I seem to have a period now when I'm exploring Bartoks music. I've only played a few of his pieces before - simple ones, like "Evening in transylvania" and "Bear dance". I just started learning the first Romanian dance, op 8a, which is a lot of fun to play. I borrowed a book with sheet music from the library, and found another piece, the left-hand study, which is a great piece of music too.

I still haven't heard too much of his music though, and I was wondering what Bartok pieces you would recommend? I'm mostly interrested in the solo-piano stuff, although I've heard some really good violin - piano pieces. All of the pieces I've played so far are quite "tuneful" and not very atonal, but from what I understand, a lot of his music is... well, harder to listen to. What do you think? I don't know very much about him really, but I'm looking forward to hear more of his music.

Also, what pianists do you recommend for his music?

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