The Kennedy Center

Béla Bartók


One of the greatest composers of his nation, a proficient pianist and collector of folk music, Béla Bartók was born on March 25, 1881 at Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary. His influential creative genius was felt not only in Hungary but in America and Western Europe. Utilizing the elements of folk music and traditional techniques, he achieved a modern compositional style that had great influence on 20th century music.

Bartók studied in Pressburg and at the Budapest Academy of Music (1899-1903), where he studied the piano with Liszt’s pupil Istvan Thoman. In 1904, he started to collect folksongs, which he recorded and classified. From 1907-1934, he was professor of piano at the Budapest Academy. Thereafter, he relinquished his post in order to devote more time to "ethnomusicological" research. In 1940, he immigrated to the United States. He was commissioned by Columbia University to transcribe a large collection of Yugoslav folk melodies.

His passionate spirit enlightened every field he pursued. As a fine pianist, he shared his passion with his student for almost thirty years. He got famous for his piano compositions, one of them is Mikrokosmos (1926-27). In violin, he famed on his composition of Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. For orchestra, one of the most popular is Concerto for Orchestra (1943). The one-act opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, the ballets The Wooden Prince and The Miraculous Mandarin, chamber music, are just some of his famous works. While gaining international admiration, the Universal Edition published his works, thus, invited to play them all over Europe.

A Viola Concerto left in sketches, and a Piano Concerto no. 3 was almost finished when he died of leukemia in New York in 1945.
Béla Bartók


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