Monday, March 25, 2013

For Bela Bartok

Bela Bartok was a great human, a liberal opponent of Fascism, and one of the greatest and most influential composers of the last century. He was born on this day in 1881.

Here he is playing the Allegro Barbaro:

A playlist of Bartok playing a wide range of music, including the Kreutzer Sonata with Josef Szigeti (you may have to click through to YouTube for the full playlist):


Nik said...

Boldog sz├╝let├ęsnapot, Bela! (Hungarian is probably my favorite language to type Happy Birthday in.)

Toldain said...

That performance of Allegro Barbaro has a freer tempo than I've heard before.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I think Bartok recorded a fair amount of his own music, and my recollection is that much of it is played more freely than the music necessarily indicates. A lesson, perhaps, for current interpreters of his music.

Thank you, Nik. I have added a phrase to my scant knowledge of Magyar. :)

Henry Holland said...

What a great composer, I favor his early Straussian stuff like the 4 Pieces Op. 12 or the first violin concerto, but he was pretty consistent no matter the style he used. It's really a shame he didn't write another opera and I'd love to see his three stage pieces done in one night (The Wooden Prince/The Miraculous Mandarin/Bluebeard's Castle).

What a sad last few years for the man, how he managed to complete the incredible Concerto for Orchestra is amazing.

Lisa Hirsch said...

He is one of my favorites, in any era. The string quartets especially have been vastly influential, but, well, I love almost everything of his.

Yes, his terrible last few years, poor, sick, and far from home. He also finished the viola concerto and third piano concerto in those last years, if I'm not mistaken. Maybe I am, the Wikipedia works list says "sketches only" for the viola concerto.

With you all the way on wishing he'd written another opera. I went to two of the three SF Symphony performances of Bluebeard last year, and, jeez. I'd seen it performed three times already but not with an orchestra like that. Just an amazing experience.

john_burke100 said...

The Szigeti/Bartok "Kreutzer" performance is fascinating. Great headlong drive, which I think is very suitable for this piece; but Bartok uses a lot of what was once meant by rubato,, separating the left and right hand by a fraction of a second where the score indicates they're to be played simultaneously. This was apparently once standard practice but it strikes my ear as an annoying tic.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I love that style of playing! After listening to the old dead guys who played with 19th c. style, I find most modern pianists overly rigid in 19th c. repertory.

My favorite living pianist in Bartok, actually, is Kocsis, who has a more fluid, less driven style that most other pianists who play Bartok.

Nancy Malitz said...

Yefim Bronfman just did the Bartok 2nd Piano Concerto here with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Ferocious performance, really great. But I came out of there wishing I could have heard Bartok perform it. Thanks for this bit. Was glad to be reminded of his freedom and brilliant finesse.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Bartok is on the set Composers in Person, but it's all solo piano, no piano concertos, alas.