Spotlight on Great Classical Composers: Bartók

It’s time for our third post for Spotlight on Great Classical Composers ~! 

Spotlight on Great Classical Composers focuses on sharing about some of the greatest classical music composers, so we can all hear of their life journeys beyond their works. 

After peeking into the lives of Bach and Beethoven in the past features, we are going to focus on Hungarian composer, pianist and teacher Béla Bartók (1881 – 1945) this week.  Bartók is best known for the Hungarian flavour in his musical works which range from orchestral works, string quartets, solo piano pieces, stage works, to folk songs for voice and piano.

Born in the Kingdom of Hungary, Bartók grew up in a household filled with classical music – with his father playing the cello, and his mother the piano.  Bartók’s talent in music was evident from the young age of 4, when he could already play all 40 folk songs he knew, on the piano.  He began to compose small dance pieces at the age of 9, and gave his first public performance at age 11, which included one of his creations. 

Bartók’s curiosity for folk music was first piqued by his overhearing of a young nanny singing folk songs to the children while he was on a holiday.  In hopes of discovering more folk music, he set off on lengthy study expeditions into the countryside with his life-long friend and fellow Hungarian composer, Zoltán Kodály.  The pair of young composers then started to incorporate folk and peasant music into their own creations – sometimes simply by writing accompaniment for many of these tunes. 

In subsequent years, Bartók continued to embark on study expeditions to faraway lands like the Carpathian Basin, Moldova, Wallachia and Algeria to discover more of the folk music from these areas.  His concentrated studies were unfortunately interrupted by the First World War.  With many regions of Hungary cut off after this war, and the Second World War just around the corner, Bartók made the difficult decision to leave for New York City together with his wife in 1940.

It was in the States where Bartók completed his Concerto for Orchestra, which was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1944 to great success – with this work becoming one of his most popular to date.

Unlike a typical Concerto, featuring one or a few solo instruments, Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra treats each of the orchestral instruments in a soloistic manner, with each instrument having an opportunity to shine as a soloist or as a section. 

With this unique take on the form of a ‘Concerto’, the appearance of his very personal ‘night music’ style – a portrayal of a quiet, hushed and spacious atmosphere, as well as the seamless integration of folk styles from his homeland of Hungary, into this work, the Concerto for Orchestra has become undoubtedly one of the most well-received pieces of all time – boasting 72 performances around the world within just 6 years of its premiere. 

Born a sickly child, Bartók’s health was never very strong and it began to deteriorate even before his arrival into New York.  The last leg of his composition journey – consisting of the creation of his Concerto for Orchestra, as well as other last works such as the Sonata for solo violin and his Piano Concerto No. 3, saw Bartók fighting against the ravages of leukemia.  He eventually passed in 1945, leaving behind incomplete sketches of his last composition, a viola concerto. 

Many of Bartók’s works have entered the standard concert repertoire and been recognised as classics of Western music.  Join The Glasshouse with your children to find out more about Bartók, his love for folk music, and his works !  Be greeted by more snippets within easy-to-follow stories, brought to life by illustrations and animations, like the ones above !  

September 2020 collections for #origins dedicated to children ages 0 to 6 and 6 to 12 ~ are now available (!) in our creative virtual sphere The Glasshouse.

The Glasshouse #origins is definitely one of the best ways to introduce the great classical composers to your children.  The Glasshouse #origins offers young buds and new sprouts quality sustained exposure to classical music ~ through unique monthly collections of Storyboards, Activities and Canvases.  

Join us in The Glasshouse for meaningful personal journeys of growth.

Stay tuned for our next Spotlight on Great Classical Composers coming in November ~!