Monday, April 6, 2009

BEDA Day 6: Bartok Piano Music

One more, this time for Monday. Bela Bartok (forgive the lack of diacriticals) (1881-1945) is near the top of the list of major twentieth-century composers. Boosey & Hawkes has some great info on him.

You can also read his bio at Wikipedia, or you can jump right to the page's audio samples.

What makes Bartok so great to me is his effortless mixture of tradition and innovation. Every work I've heard of his makes perfect sense musically and artistically; his music is eminently listenable. Yet there is always something of interest - asymmetric meter, octatonic collections, invention and variation - that shows a great intellect.

He is also direct and not prone to unnecessary notes or gestures, marking a clear musical intent - something basic yet quite challenging to most composers.

Bartok's solo piano music is a particularly good place to start for the beginner, as he was prolific and exellent in this genre. His Mikrokosmos (Wiki), a graduated series of 153 pieces in six volumes, is a monument to the diversity and quality of the composer's entre oeuvre. You can preview and purchase the scores at JW Pepper, or search for the volumes at

I have greatly enjoyed exploring his easy to moderate works in a tutoring situation this semester, and I strongly recommend you do so as well if you're interested in hearing some solid yet playfully quirky music.

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