Béla Bartók: Concerto

29 November 2009, Italian Cultural Institute of Budapest

Dohnányi Orchestra of Budafok

Welcome, dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I have a confession to make: I think this is the piece (and, naturally, Bartók’s life work itself) that made me become a musician.
I learnt music from when I was a child, though I went to an ordinary “civilian” secondary school specialized in mathematics and physics, to József Attila Secondary Grammar School. Still, I owe this school for having become a musician. The first Bartók Cultural Competition was on the air when I was a third year student in the secondary school and I was excessively affected by it despite having relatively scarce musical knowledge and knowing especially little about music literature. Still, I was even the more blessed with love for music.

Strangely enough, Bartók’s life work was the first big lot that I could truly take up. I was still fairly young when I began to become familiar with his entire life work. The Concerto itself was such an immense experience that made me come to a decision then: I will be a music historian. Luckily enough, it “came off” in a different way (or at least this is what I think now) as I became an active musician. (It’s of course another story whether You or the musicians on the stage share my view…) So Bartók is one of the personalities who determined my whole career and thinking and who (pity enough) doesn’t yet mean an everyday bread for us all. Still, I can assure You that those who begin understanding music through Bartók’s pieces will consider this a certain natural, obvious and self-evident language that will endow them, when appropriate, with the capacity to turn young people to music for their whole lifetime.
I wish to dedicate this concert today to the memory of my unforgettable teacher László Somogyi [1] who was of determinative importance in my career as a conductor and who I’m actually also linked to through the experience of a Concerto interpretation detailed during a seminar in Szombathely.
I’d first like to introduce László Somogyi in brief as he must be rather unknown to the younger generation, though may be well-known to those who lived in the fifties and paid attention to musical life. Alongside János Ferencsik, László Somogyi was in those times certainly one of the determinative personalities in Hungarian musical life. But he was first of all a grandiose teacher who brought up generations of conductors including the world-famous conductor István Kertész.
László Somogyi had a bad reputation of his frequent huffiness seemingly turning into discourtesy and austerity. His emotionalism was coupled with a special “skill” whereby he could grasp the others in their most sensitive and most vulnerable point. Still, he was one of the greatest music pedagogues I’ve ever known. He never made a compromise, didn’t tolerate contradiction, never agreed to any alternatives. He simply said “this is how you have to do it”, explained the reasons and no excuse could be made afterwards. If someone didn’t perform according to his expectations, he took fearsome offence.

What I have here in my hands is a sheet of Bartók’s Concerto. I keep it as a requisite because a highly important moment of my life is attached to it. As You can see, it’s glued together – simply because László Somogyi tore it. He grasped it and threw it at my head with a strength that the sheet ripped into two. He did so because for the second or third time I “didn’t do it so” as he said and this was simply unacceptable for him. Just as one of my unforgettable history teachers who drilled the material in our heads as a dogma and claimed a word for word repetition of the lesson in the oral test. Lo and behold: I can still remember these sentences that met with a gradually deepening interpretation over my life.
Later on, I found day after day that these seemingly dogmatic truths can be profoundly relevant and could be converted to a lot of topics. Teachers who taught authoritatively had the deepest impression on me. Now I already dare say that, fortunately or unfortunately, most of the things will hold true in a single form only.
We musicians frequently act (simply in our justification) as if the performance of a piece had several solutions (and then the critics can argue about who was right…). In fact, if you know a piece very well, it will have a single correct solution only. But evidently, this has a certain ring, in the words of my other beloved teacher, Professor Pernye [2]. For instance everything will remain identical within the limits of tempo and dynamics but originally there’s a single correct solution only. It was László Somogyi who in this regard claimed order with immeasurable rigidity and occasionally demented sanguineness; so the order was in fact created and could accompany you all over your life. This means that the attribute “demented” is not by mere chance used in the title of our performance today.

As I’ve mentioned before, this piece is a very important one for me; moreover, it’s a summary of Bartók’s life work which can open the door for those who’re not really well-versed in music to understanding Bartók.
When talking about Bartók, the first we generally mention is that he’s one of those who explored Hungarian folklore. He follows a very special method to integrate folk music into his own musical thinking. This means that his early pieces include folk songs, later he uses folk song-type melodies and even later we don’t seem to hear either folk songs or folk song-type elements. Still, if you really do pay attention, you’ll be astonished to recognize the folk song character in each of Bartók’s gestures. We Hungarians find it relatively simple to interpret the Hungarian folk song elements. But you should also understand that Bartók’s music uses not only Hungarian folk music but also from the neighbouring countries, so it includes mainly Romanian, Slovakian folk music, some from south of Hungary and sometimes even some Ruthenian elements. These are all crucial parts of the composer’s entire life work.
Another key to better understanding Bartók is somewhat similar to how you should get a closer glimpse at Mozart. Both life works rely on certain basic characters, all linked to theatrical pieces. If you take almost any piano concerto or symphony from Mozart’s life work (and wholly applicable to the big pieces), you’ll certainly be able to pair it with an opera hero whose musical development in the opera uses similar musical characters. Just as if a character from an opera scene were to appear here. These few “intonations” (just to use this aesthetic expression) play a key role in interpreting Bartók’s art, as typically they regularly return upon representing the characters and should be known well to find our way in Bartók’s life work.

One of the characters that Bartók is mostly famed for is the Barbarian. It was quite unusual in its time and might still be such nowadays. This character can the most typically be linked with the piece The Miraculous Mandarin [A csodálatos mandarin], though the Barbarian thought appears in a lot of Bartók’s other works; for instance in one of his best known and most popular pieces, in Allegro barbaro where Bartók calls this character by its name.
The second, similarly basic character is the night music. These overnight images of nature are always a bit about loneliness and are the naked and dreadful expressions of our stranger-in-the-world existence. The key to these feelings is hidden in Bluebeard’s Castle [A kékszakállú herceg vára]; that’s where (in the Lake of tears movement) you can first hear this specific expression of loneliness, apprehension and anguish. A piece that calls the character by its name can likewise be coupled with this feature. This is the piano piece Music of the night [Az éjszaka zenéje].
The third essential musical character, the grotesque is present in his life work from the playful to the demonic. Bartók’s third theatrical piece, the pantomime ballet The Wooden Prince [A fából faragott királyfi] can be coupled with this feature, as the existence and figure of the wooden puppet itself expresses the extremes of this character. All this has a still valid philosophic message: man’s toys that he produces for his own entertainment might even turn against him. The piano piece A Bit Drunk [Kicsit ázottan], which he instrumentalized in Hungarian sketches [Magyar képek], is yet another of Bartók’s pieces where he uses the grotesque. The latter presents the lovely and sweet character of a bemused man.
Finally, the so-called folk dance finale also ranks among the basic characters: it represents Bartók’s credo in the brotherhood of nations on the one hand and is a dramaturgical unit related to the final sounds of the specific piece, on the other. Practically speaking, a basic question in almost each of Bartók’s pieces starting from Dance Suite [Táncszvit] is whether it comprises a folk dance finale. If it does, we’ll go home with relative joy and optimism, or if it doesn’t, this feeling will be lacking, joy and optimism, the real catharsis will have to be missed.
So these are the intonations, the character types that interlace Bartók’s life work and offer a key to understanding a piece and following the musical flow. A precondition to understanding quite many musical pieces is our recognition of the characters appearing and our apprehension of their relationship and the dominance of a single character.

Yet another essential element that helps us take in Bartók’s pieces is editing. We actually inherited the four-movement structure from European musical culture: this was typical of each classical cyclic form including e.g. the symphony up to the turn of the century. Bartók uses it in several of his pieces, though he creates a typical and unique Bartók-style form, the so-called bridge form of five movements. The dramaturgical process, the musical action, the essence of the composer’s message is in this form characteristically incorporated in the first, third and fifth movements, whereas the interim (i.e. second and fourth) movements provide a counterpoint, a sort of relaxation, sometimes even stop the process and represent a playful, spicy intermezzo in fitting into the elements with serious messages.

The Concerto follows this structure: it’s a five-movement piece built up in a bridge form. The most important part, the centre of the piece is its third movement which itself was composed in a bridge form. From a dramaturgical point of view, the centre of Bartók’s bridge forms can equally be the emotional nadir or peak of the process. Moreover, the extreme movements might rhyme, thereby representing an identical mood and musical thought, or, as I’ve mentioned regarding the folk dance finale, the closing movement may imply the elevated culmination of a rough start.

Similar to several of his predecessors, one of the attributes of Bartók as an inwards romantic composer is that he builds the process of creating the music in the musical piece. When I was explaining some other composers’ musical compositions (just recall Haydn, Beethoven and several romantic composers) I described on many an occasion how they unravel the precedents of developing a certain theme or musical thought. Bartók moves further on: he shows the phase of the musical process down to creation; the sort of fight for what develops and how, frequently from nothing. Bartók’s development technique (i.e. everything that happens with musical thoughts in musical processes) is a peculiarly 20th century phenomenon and one of Bartók’s unique endowments. For instance the way he utilizes the technique of changing the arch of a melody; if a melody tends upwards, Bartók will show its inverse. This is called mirroring. But sometimes he would reverse the melodies. All these tools are a great help for us in our chances to interpret the piece.

Now let me give You a lively example to illustrate my previous explanations.

Right in the first beats of the first movement we immediately happen to find ourselves among the most important roots of Bartók’s ideology, the folklore.
The trumpets play a theme that I don’t think anyone, except well-trained musicians, would think of being folk music. But if you listen carefully to the arch of the melody, the four-line articulation, you’ll recognize the ancient Hungarian descending type of folk song.

      1. Concerto


Similarly, you can quite simply tell that the four sequential tones heard are typically Hungarian in their musicality. There’s no other language with such a marked stress in the beginning of the word. This is why foreign orchestras cannot in general interpret this gesture accurately enough. But we Hungarians can think of some text off-hand. Though actually the descending line of the melody helps us identify the ancient Hungarian folk song character.
This means that the process of giving birth to and creating the music is an immensely important part of Bartók’s life work. The introduction to the first movement shadows this development. Typically, the musical element generates itself as it forms and develops, and finally, by the end of a long process it gets to the leading theme. This materialized leading theme will then immediately sound in two ways: the ascending line of the melody is, as its own reflection, followed by its own descending variant.

      2. Concerto


Those who are already familiar with Bartók’s music will recall this theme as a single melody though in fact it’s two melodies: first we hear one melody, followed by its mirror.

      3. Concerto


Now we’ll play the beginning of the piece as a whole, so You can carefully see through the long process as the nascent melody is finally crystallized, and at last we get to where Bartók wanted to get.

      4. Concerto


But before analyzing the composition, we should raise a question: why does Bartók call the composition a Concerto? It’s a symphonic composition – so why not symphony[3]?

20th century composers tend to escape from traditional names, or else it will certainly end in provocation, i.e. épater la bourgeoisie. Stravinsky for instance composed a symphony when he knew in advance that everyone would get frightened of having specifically composed a symphony. So when a composition is completed, no one dares to call it under its genuine name. Actually, last week we performed a magnificent piece, Levente Gyöngyösi’s Symphony No. 1 which the composer was brave enough to call a symphony, considering that at the end there’s a choir, which is rather unusual even compared to Beethoven…
Composers in the 20th century probably try to beware of the traditional name because they intend to avoid being confronted with the expectations of the preceding centuries. So the public, once brought up on Brahms or Tchaikovsky symphonies, should not expect to hear something similar now again.
Finally, the title for Bartók’s work was chosen to be a Concerto because it is composed for an orchestra (specifically, for Boston Symphony Orchestra), so Bartók tried to offer something that would provide the orchestra with a piece very good “to play”, where the various sections in the orchestra can straighten up and say “well, we did play it”. Indeed, playing the Concerto is a tough test each time. Still, it has a genuinely concerto character: some instrument groups stand out against the others, confront the orchestra, which ends in real concerting. The word concerto means nothing else but when a soloist or a small group of instruments “confronts” the big orchestra. If You listen to the central part, i.e. the elaboration of the movement, You’ll unambiguously hear baroque tower music played by wind instruments. If I didn’t know the composition and if the world of sounds in this part were not fairly unequivocally “Bartok-style”, I’d be uneasy about which century this part is from.

      5. Concerto


This part is a genuine minor concerto within the composition. Then the second movement turns more emphatically into a concerto: pairs of instruments concert with each other and a splendid phenomenon is born out of this rivalry.
Now, having summarized the key symbols of Bartók’s style and his thinking in the quality of a composer and having considered the issues related to title, let’s go over the movements of the composition.
The first movement, as the first pillar of the composition, is the mostly “clear music” which, accordingly, Bartók materializes with the clearest musical form, the sonata form. This means that in the first part, the exposition (which means introduction, preparation) there’s a main part with various themes in diverse characters, then there’s an “elaboration” phase (which we’ve recently heard) and finally the themes come back, and the theme closes with a quick end, a grandiose fanfare-style victorious finale.

The next “central” movement is the third movement of the Concerto. (I’ll detail the second and fourth later on.) In the knowledge of Bartók’s entire life work we highly anticipate the central movement because we know that this always comprises the most important message.
The Concerto has a very important biographical connection – though I rarely speak about biographical connections because I’d like You to always focus on the music only. The composition, as well known, was made in America, in emigration. Bartók left Hungary in 1939 and then there came long silence. Apart from the setting of a single composition, he didn’t write anything for nearly three and a half years. It was partly his disease and partly his agonizing homesickness that prevented him from composing. The request to compose Concerto was made in a lucky moment as his health seemed to have somewhat improved. This composition is full of life-force and is a wonderful summary of Bartók’s life work, still, homesickness, anguish and Hungary are in the centre of the piece. In Concerto, which though is a clearly musical, universal piece, we return to Hungary; mourning and anguish get in the focal point.

Bartók didn’t purely compose “night” music but even returned to the world of the Bluebeard’s Castle, which specifically shows that this is a greatly life-summarizing composition. This can probably be easily perceived in the beginning of the movement which in itself follows a bridge form, since it has exactly the same affect as the ancient night music starting Bluebeard’s.
Let’s play the first part of the movement and then this specific gesture which refers to the Lake of tears.

      6. Concerto


If You had been in doubts whether the four-tone motive from the previous movement were Hungarian music, Bartók will ensure You now in this movement that this is a Hungarian funeral lament. What the trumpets played in the introduction to the first movement will now sound by the whole orchestra: a deep-rooted explosion, a genuine Hungarian funeral melody. This is the second element of the third movement.

      7. Concerto


The melody of the trumpet part is the soul and content of the whole: the ecstatic expression of unmanageable anguish.
After all this we get to the centre of the movement, to the third element. The viola plays a simple Hungarian funeral melody that could be coupled with a text from two lines of an existing old Hungarian and Moldavian Chango funeral lament which says “I hath no father, no support, I even bemoan the water”… Although the notes don’t show this, still, if you give an ear to it and play it so, this text can definitely be distinguished. So the still subsisting and deepest-rooted genre of Hungarian musical culture, the funeral lament is played here. Sadly enough, typical of Hungarians’ entire history, one of the most ancient genres we know about ourselves is not the dance song, not the gaiety melody but the funeral lament… Nevertheless, these are the most soul-stirring and most wonderful moments of Hungarian folk music.

      8. Concerto


A fine and fair accompaniment embraces this melody in the orchestra: this is where the entire composition reaches its emotional peak. Then, following the rules of the bridge form, the grandiose funeral melody from the first movement is played here again, and finally we return to the well-known Lake of tears motive from the Bluebeard’s.
The third movement is symmetric on its own, so it’s made up of five parts just as the whole composition. If You still remember what I said about the dramaturgy of the bridge form, You’ll easily understand that something really special happens at the end of the movement, considering that the night motive in Bartók’s life work always means some tension with no relief at the end of the movement, though perhaps somewhat relieved in another movement. But here, first ever, the night ends in dawn. First in Bartók’s life work, night turns over to miraculous dawn. Instead of the sorrowful melody of the oboe, a seemingly impeccant piccolo plays in the returning melody, though, as time slowly shows, this is not a mere piccolo but a nightingale who heralds the morning and who is though left alone but when it sings, the entire musical theme clears up. And finally, first ever with Bartók, a movement doesn’t end in the very middle of the night but in the morning. This morning is a miraculous perspective of the entire composition. This scene also shows what Bartók has to offer to close his life work, what dramatic psychic changes he underwent in his last period.

      9. Concerto


The fifth movement is the biggest folk dance finale in Bartók’s life work. In fact, it doesn’t contain traces from Hungarian folk music but integrates quite many Romanian and Slavic-style melodies. It’s an impressive closing indeed, a tough one, still, it fascinates and has an elemental affect. Now we’ll show You the only “folklore-style” part, but there You can really feel that it’s close to our musical tradition. Try to identify how the theme, which will later play a central role, sounds in this suddenly evolving stamping dance. The theme is played on the trumpet and Bartók will make a lot of formations from this sound. This is actually the only theme that undergoes a metamorphosis and a kind of character change. First it’s played as a fanfare, followed by a fugue with the strings; then in the end, just as in a romantic piece, it turns into the symbol of glorification; and in the very end of the composition, after endless twirls, it finally rounds off.

      10. Concerto


Here again we could hear the leading theme, and its reverse on the trumpet. We can also hear the metamorphoses of the theme, just as the developing fugue [4]. The fugue is otherwise an indispensable part of an ordinary baroque composition.

      11. Concerto


So here we can hear a classical fugue where each part has its own role. The formerly victorious theme becomes grotesque here. So the fifth movement is a highly energetic dance finale with some message in the last minutes.

The two intermezzo movements are extremely rewarding: they are the most popular among those who hear the Concerto for the first time. These movements don’t participate in the dramatic process but (if you like as a kind of relaxation) counterpoint the entire process [5].
The second movement, the Game of pairs is a dance-based character and style game. Bartók uses all the wood-winds and the trumpet for its musical expression, putting each of them in a specific style. For a start we hear the bassoons whose tone itself is sometimes rather comic: they’re giant instruments mostly used to characterize bears and other “behemoths”. Bartók is masterly in profiting from the contradiction as this “teddy-bear-style” instrument is bouncing just as if it were a slim animal. This scene develops into a prodigious game.

      12. Concerto


The next instruments to play are the oboes. Each instrument plays in different intervals. The bassoons in sixth (which is fairly enjoyable), but after them we really take delight in listening to the third parallel of the oboes. There’s some airiness hidden in the melody of the oboes, though it’s not definitely known from classical music.

      13. Concerto


Everyone can identify it without changing any single note: it’s indeed jazz. It concludes from inner articulation and the entire character.
Let’s play this part now in swing style. It’s extremely entertaining in this swing beat, even without having changed any note…

      14. Concerto


(Actually, I was thinking about provoking an applause, but happily enough someone else also had it in mind…)
There’s nothing strange about this freak. Bartók composed Contrasts [Kontrasztok] for Benny Goodmann [6] right in this time. So jazz was not at all an alien creature for Bartók. Anyway, he could hardly have bypassed this style in America.

There comes a new colour now: the clarinets – that don’t really play in a pleasant interval… Let’s listen to the first few tones… this interval is a seventh [7].

      15. Concerto


I’m quite sure this is not the sound that would convince You to rush to a concert, but if You consider what we had the chance to listen to in the past few centuries, this sound here will seem quite refined. Then Bartók moves forward with a phenomenal jest which is quasi grotesque, yet it’s rather a joke here only. This game is encouraging and perhaps even a bit cheeky.

      16. Concerto


The flutes appear now, trying to “enlighten the situation”. They play in fifth (five notes distance). We, humans prefer this interval. There’re just few examples in historical musicology with the melody running parallel in the same five-note distance on two instruments –simply because then the parts lose their independence. The airiness of the flutes reflects a somewhat eastern mood: just imagine two small and thin Chinese girls who’re toddling here in front of us in their tight skirts. This flute duet calls forth this kind of image.

      17. Concerto


Finally there come the trumpets – they play in that certain “nasty” interval created by concurrently sounding the two closest notes.

      18. Concerto


Perhaps this is the most hopeless dissonance in musical history. The interval of the two closest notes is perceived as the biggest dissonance. Most probably not even in the 21st century has any “nastier” been produced. Just keep an ear to the curiosity created here: despite a nasty dissonance, we hear a single melody; the trumpets use a sordino and so play stopped tones; and all this gives a bit frowning character to the music. Most likely this was Bartók’s intention.

      19. Concerto


Bartók repeats this series of entries, accompanied by a finely elaborated counterpoint through the game of instrument pairs, after the central part which in fact is a beautiful choral [8] melody. This ambition (to use a choral melody) is more and more inherent in Bartók’s late works. The leading theme in the second movement of Piano Concerto No. 3 will similarly be a choral melody. But a lot of similar cases are known in music literature. The choral melody in a composer’s late works will reflect the composer’s affiliation and may, if appropriate, symbolize his faith.

The fourth movement is soul-stirring, especially for us Hungarians. The title of this movement is “Interrupted intermezzo”. The most important dramaturgical tool of the movement is the state of interruption itself. It’s a simple rondo form, which means the alternation of a theme and intermezzi.
The emphasis in the movement is laid on the two intermezzi. The first one is a quotation from Zsigmond Vincze’s [9] operetta The bride from Hamburg [A hamburgi menyasszony], a melody widely known in the thirties (Nice you are, beautiful you are, Hungary [Szép vagy, gyönyörű vagy, Magyarország]). The still popular song symbolizes the grief for having lost a considerable part of our homeland, the historical Hungary, which concurrently represents Bartók’s homesickness.
The other intermezzo pictures an extraordinarily dramatic moment: the moment of massacre – in a sometimes ironic, sometimes grotesque style. Don’t forget: it’s 1943.
The movement has a quite surprising start; the orchestra painfully breaks into the relieving dawn of the third movement and the little, seemingly insignificant melody of the theme sounds afterwards.

      20. Concerto


Then, all at once, the melody of mightily sentimental nostalgia comes on: this is Bartók’s reversified version of Nice you are, beautiful you are, Hungary.

      21. Concerto


The second intermezzo is wholly incredible. All of a sudden, another rhythmical element, a new melody (which essentially expresses commonness, triviality) turns up in the rhythmic game. This melody can certainly be correlated with a couplet from the Merry Widow [Víg özvegy]. Bartók is assumed to have known Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, composed a bit more than a year before, which commemorates the defenders of Leningrad. There, similarly, we hear the melody first adorably, but then a quarter-of-an-hour part going as far as brutality evolves from it. Here, in Concerto, this whole thing becomes a bit commonplace, accompanied by monstrous, sarcastic and piggish guffaw. This is the source for the title (Interrupted intermezzo) of the movement – as if the composer wanted to frighten us. But he really has the reason to do so in 1943!
Sadly enough, there’re plenty of examples of brutality and inhumanity in this era. Bartók composes this world of senses with fine musical tools that though pierce to the marrow.

      22. Concerto


Instead of a subsequent theme which would ordinarily follow in the rondo form, we immediately return to the melody of the first intermezzo, Nice you are, beautiful you are, Hungary. After the horrible shock, as if it sounded from thousands of kilometres away. Then the movement ends with an apparently fiddling and simple melody of the theme: here the flutist’s cadence shows certain hesitation. The humanist Bartók considers the peccable man’s perplexity the most expressive.
The two above intermezzi are the composer’s real dazzling idea as they counterpoint the dramaturgical process of the first, third and fifth movements.

The fifth movement ends quite peculiarly. The closure is an immense musical climax, developing from the fanfare melody in the beginning of the movement.

      23. Concerto


This melody is apparently made up of two scales: one with the tones of the descending melody, the other with the tones of the ascending and reversing melody. But this in effect means the bipartition of a scale, which is of determinative importance in Bartók’s life work. It’s called the natural scale because it’s built up of the relationship between a tone and its overtones. This natural scale definitely refers to nature in Bartók’s aesthetics.
The last extensive musical twirl of the Concerto sounds as if mother nature itself came up with the solution. So we get to the melody that we’ve heard before, played by the trumpets around the big dance: this is how we get to triumphal glorification.

      24. Concerto


Just as in a genuine romantic Mahler piece where, after great efforts, Mahler’s favourite melody comes up at the very end of the piece, thereby elevating the experience to ecstasy. Bartók follows the same principle: he imperially enhances the playful melody that we’ve heard before, and so he closes the Concerto.
Those who are familiar with Bartók’s life work will know that the minor third in this specific melody has become a symbol of Bartók’s “Barbarian” musical thought since The Miraculous Mandarine. The way all the brasses menacingly play this very “Barbarian” minor third after the big dance suggests “Beware, take care, you may any time get in trouble”… Quite evidently, I don’t want to bind anyone’s imagination but You should definitely understand that here in this emotionally immensely excited finale Bartók actually warns us with this impressive gesture, a symbolic moment of his life work. I don’t think Bartók composed this closure subsequently, as an alternative closure of the piece at random [10]. None the less, Concerto has one of the most airy, most joyous closures in Bartók’s life work.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, We’ll play the whole piece after the break. I’m certain if You listen to the Concerto several times, You may make lifelong friends with it, since this composition is undoubtedly one of the greatest Hungarian masterpieces in the history of music.

And now let’s listen to the fantastic closure of the composition.

      25. Concerto



[1] László Somogyi: (1907 – 1988) Conductor. Learnt from Zoltán Kodály and Leó Weiner, then became the head of the conductor training department. Head of the Hungarian Radio Orchestra in the 50’s. Emigrated in 1956. Leading conductor of Rochester Symphony between 1964-68. Held several master classes during the Bartók Seminar in Szombathely, Hungary from the 80’s.
[2] András Pernye: (1928 – 1980) Erkel prize winning music historian, musical author, university professor. Also known as a member in the Hungarian talent competition (Ki mit tud?) jury in the 60’s. One of the first musical authors who espoused jazz and popular music.
[3] Symphony: A genre for orchestras in several movements which played a determinative role after the development of orchestras, from the 18th century onward.
[4] Fugue, from the Latin word fugere (to chase): a strictly edited multi-part genre of equal parts where the same theme is repeated in each part, in identical or analogous key, while the parts that don’t play the theme will play the so-called counterpoint.
[5] Intermezzo: interact. In musical sense it is a stand-alone part which originally comes among scenes in theatrical performances and can, where appropriate, respond the dramatic action, though it mainly counterpoints the latter in its mood.
[6] Benny Goodman: (1909-1986) American clarinetist, bandleader, one of the most important jazz musicians in the first half of the last century.
[7] Seventh: tones that are seven tones away from each other. Compared to the above-mentioned third (three tones) and sixth (six tones), this generates a much more painful to our ears sound effect.
[8] Choral: Protestant ecclesiastical people’s song in the mother tongue, sung in unison. Most of them set words to well-known melodies and are played with harmonic accompaniment in the church.
[9] Zsigmond Vincze: (1874-1935) Composer, conductor, pianist.
[10] The original recording conducted by Koussevitzky comes with the first closure. Bartók noted the second alternative closure, which has since become habitual in performers’ practice, only afterwards.

Translated by Helga Párkai