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Bela Bartok

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Bela Bartok


A laundry list of words can be associated with Bela Bartok: daring, uncompromising, nationalistic, revolutionary. There's no question that this Hungarian composer was a visionary: along with friend Zoltan Kodaly, he is noted as being one of the first ethnomusicologists, going out into the countryside and documenting countless folk songs and all the varying folk idioms in existence. He then absorbed these elements and created music that was as original and unheard of as anything composed in the early part of the twentieth century. Pieces such as Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and the Concerto for Orchestra -- easily two of his most famous works -- are simply stunning for their vigor, their heightened emotional states, and their unique and often disturbing sense of melodic and harmonic structure. The Allegro movement of the former, for example, is a cataclysm of cascading scales and jagged themes, an unparalleled whirlwind of sound. An accomplished pianist, Bartok composed a series of works entitled Mikrokosmos -- a whopping 153 pieces of keyboard music intended to adjust the student's ear to the sounds and rhythms of the "new." Bartok's music was not always accepted or played. Like Schoenberg, he was disdainful of ensembles that would take liberties with his work, and it wasn't until his final, ailing years in the United States that he had his greatest successes. Today, no one could possibly deny the inherent genius or far-reaching scope of his music, or the influence that his work has had on countless composers.
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