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10 - The String Quartets and works for chamber orchestra

from Part II - Profiles of the music

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2011

Amanda Bayley
Affiliation:
University of Wolverhampton
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Summary

The Six String Quartets offer a fascinating insight into the chronology of Bartók's musical style, as they span some thirty years of his compositional career. Their stylistic development is such that each Quartet is the culmination of a different phase of his artistic growth, focusing almost all his creative ideas and compositional techniques into a single genre. On the one hand they represent the continuation of a Classical tradition through an intensity of motivic writing that parallels Beethoven's, while on the other they reflect developments in musical language and a changing aesthetic during the first half of the twentieth century.

Unlike his Austro-German contemporary Arnold Schoenberg, Bartók did not consciously seek to champion the cause of atonality. Rather, his interest lay in the fusion of folk and art music, the synthesis of East and West Europe: his inspiration from the folk music of different nationalities uniquely influenced the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structures of his own music. Furthermore, developments within the realm of his string music – the String Quartets, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and the Divertimento for string orchestra – include the many imaginative ways in which he exploited the timbral properties of stringed instruments, devising techniques new to the idiom in order to achieve a whole new range of sonorities within the context of an extended tonality.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2001

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