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Outline the Variety of Influences on Bartók’s Musical Idiom

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 01:20 AM
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Béla Bartók, 1881 -1945, is thought of as one of the greatest Hungarian composers.   He was born and raised in Budapest.   He was put in isolation due to small pox at an early age, due to this he had little chance to interact with other children and spent his time listening to his mother play the piano.  

He showed his musical abilities early on and by the age of about nine he was composing dances, his first dance “The Course of the Danube” helped him be awarded a place as a student of Laszlo Erkel.   Due to this teaching Bartók became interested in the “high art”   music.   This music was mainly German music such as Wagner and Brahms.   Franz Liszt also joined Bartók’s list of main influences in his life time.   Bartók studied under the observation of Istavan Thoman who was a pupil of Liszt and also for composition, his teacher was a great enthusiast of Brahms.  

At this time his influences were obvious.   He wrote many chamber music and piano compositions.   The “heavy influences of Schumann and Brahms”   are clear in these pieces especially in his “Scherzo for piano and orchestra”, Op.2.  

When Bartók lost out in the Rubenstein Music composition he changed his career almost at once, going from a virtuoso piano player to original composition.   Also at this time he was collecting Hungarian folk music.   These pieces of music collected are the main reason why we remember Bartók today, for his use of the folk music in his own compositions.   It was not only Hungarian folk music he collected, he also travelled to Slovakia, Bulgaria and places like Turkey and Morocco.

The folk music and also the music of Debussy, with their irregular metre and the “new, modal kinds of harmony”   had an influence on Bartók from the early 1900’s.   We see these influences clearly in all of his work but it will be his two most famous pieces that I will look at in more depth, his “Concerto for Orchestra” and “Music for Strings, Percussion and...


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