Sînnicolau Mare (Hungary), 1881 – New York City (New York, USA), 1945
Composer • Performer (piano)

Béla Bartók was initiated in the musical arts at the Royal Academy of Budapest under the gui-dance of Istvan Thoman (piano) and Janos Koessler (composition). His career in composition was paralleled by a systematic investigation into Hungarian folklore that he undertook with his friend and colleague Zoltan Kodaly (1905-1906), an activity that helped lay the foundations for ethnomusicology. In addition to the pentatonic scale, Bartók’s study of Hungarian music revealed various non-symmetrical polyrhythmic combinations on which he later drew for piano compositions such as “Six Bulgarian Dances” from Mikrokosmos. Shortly before 1914 he produced a number of works in the same style as the Allegro Barbaro (1911) for piano, characterised by percussive rhythms and flattened melodic contours, a balance of Hungarian ethnicity and a novel musical language that marked the beginning of a new style. This same creative momentum drove the completion of the opera Bluebeard’s Castle (1914-1917), followed by the ballet The Miraculous Mandarin (1918-1919) which betrays the influence of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Bartók continued to compose in the years that followed, producing piano concertos, violin sonatas, and string quartets among other works, all the while continuing his collection of Hungarian folk music until the rise to power of the Nazis forced him into exile in the United States, where he died on September 26th, 1945.

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