Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The voice of Bartok (b 25 March 1881)

Today is Bartok's birthday!

Here is a radio interview with him from America in 1944, given during a recital of his music by his wife. He sounds quite ill; by this time he was already suffering from advanced leukaemia and he died about a year and two months later.

Now here he is playing his own Suite Op.14, recorded 1929.

"Somehow I felt now, after a long time of no work, like a man who lies in bed over a long, long period, and finally tries to use his arms and legs, gets on his feet and takes one or two steps. A man like this cannot just suddenly walk up a hill. I, too, gradually grew accustomed to movement: and so in this manner I only produced piano pieces. But even this was something. Because, to be frank, recently I have felt so stupid, so dazed, so empty-headed that I have truly doubted whether I am able to write anything new at all anymore. All the tangled chaos that the musical periodicals vomit thick and fast about the music of today has come to weigh heavily on me: the watchwords linear, horizontal, vertical, objective, impersonal, polyphonic, homophonic, tonal, polytonal, atonal, and the rest; even if one does not concern one’s self with all of it, one still becomes quite dazed when they shout it on our ears so much. ... But now things are all right; you can imagine how pleased I am that at last there will be something new, and something I myself can play, on my own, instead of the eternal Allegro barbaro, A Bit Tipsy and Rumanian Dance."

(Bartók to his second wife, Ditta Pásztory, June 21, 1926, quoted in Tibor Tallián, Béla Bartók, The Man and His Work (Budapest, 1988), 141)

I have found a wonderful online 'Bartok Virtual Exhibition' here. Visit and enjoy!