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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.
Béla Bartók's compositional output defies straightforward categorization. He is often bracketed with Hindemith and Stravinsky as a composer of non-serial music during the first half of the twentieth century, rather than with the twelve-tone composers of the Second Viennese School. Yet what sets him apart from all these composers is his interest in folk music and the assimilation of folk- and art-music influences in his works. His lifelong commitment to folk music, not just its collection and transcription but also its analysis and systematic classification, is unsurpassed.
This book brings together many leading exponents in Bartók research and endeavours to provide a concise yet comprehensive insight into current thoughts and ideas surrounding the historical, cultural and musical appreciation of his works. Even fifty-five years after the composer's death important documents continue to be translated from Hungarian to English, some of which challenge long-standing interpretations of cultural and political issues surrounding the music. The diversity of approaches to Bartók research is demonstrated in this volume through historical, performance-orientated and analytical perspectives within the organization of material into three main sections: ‘Contexts’, ‘Profiles of the music’ and ‘Reception’.
For Bartók there were a great many political and social issues that underlay his musical philosophy. Lynn Hooker opens the first section of this book with a presentation of the political, social and cultural circumstances that surrounded Bartók in Hungary from the end of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century. This extends to include the eminent musicians and literary scholars with whom the composer shared some important affinities during this rapidly changing modern world.
This Companion is an accessible guide to Bartók's music and is an ideal introduction to the composer for students, performers and concert-goers. Part I of the book sets out the cultural, social and political background in Hungary at the beginning of the twentieth century, and considers Bartók's interest in and research into folk music. Part II surveys his compositional output in all genres, relating changes in style to broad aesthetic issues, his folk music studies, and his activities as a pianist, music editor and teacher. The final part reveals the wide variety of responses to Bartók's music in Europe and the United States, both during and after his lifetime. It includes a comparison of analytical approaches to his music and an evaluation of performances including those of the composer himself. The book is written by a team of specialists, who represent more recent thinking on the composer and his music.