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Heritage of music. Bla Bartk - Essay Example

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Bela Bartok’s amazing accomplishments are in part due to the biographical elements of his life, as well as to his own creative energy. The biographical elements include the times and places of his growth and development, as well as the people who influenced him…
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Heritage of music. Bla Bartk

Bela Bartok’s amazing accomplishments are in part due to the biographical elements of his life, as well as to his own creative energy. The biographical elements include the times and places of his growth and development, as well as the people who influenced him. His individual creativity can only be attributed to that unexplainable factor that accounts for artistic genius. Together these elements combined to make one of the most influential composers of the twentieth century. Bela Bartok was born in the town of Nagyszentimiklos in Hungary in 1881 (Sadie and Tyrrell 132). Being a product of Eastern Europe at this time in history meant that he would experience a lot of political and economic instability during his life. Adding to this social and political insecurity, the death of his father in 1881 caused his mother to move to what became the Ukraine and then Slovakia (Raeburn and Kendall 248). The changing borders of these Eastern European countries together with the physical and economic unsteadiness of his family kept Bartok’s world in flux as he was growing up. It must have seemed as though the ground continued to move beneath him. It is possible that this lack of stability could have contributed to his development as an artist, that the music inside of him was a constant that was not present in his outside world. Although the unpredictable circumstances of his childhood may have been a factor in Bartok’s artistic development, his early musical accomplishments indicate that he must have had innate talent as well. Also, his mother gave piano lessons, so he grew up listening to her teach and play. At the age of eleven he gave his first public performance, which included some original compositions. During his teen years, Bartok continued to advance in his performance level and began composing chamber music, a skill he learned by reading musical scores. At the age of eighteen, he entered the Budapest Academy of Music, where he became influenced by other composers and their musical styles. He studied piano with teacher who was a student of Franz Liszt, from whom he drew what Taruskin called a “self-conscious image” (373). Perhaps this meant that he was developing a style which was his and his alone. Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” inspired him to think outside the borders of conventional music, and pieces by Debussy introduced him to the tone poem (Taruskin 349). This combination led to his first major work, Kossuth, which was composed in 1903 and performed in 1904. The central figure of this symphonic poem is Lajos Kossuth, who was a hero in the Hungarian revolution. Embodying Bartok’s youthful patriotism, Kossuth gained even more popularity because of the political tension between Hungary and Austria at that time. Hungarians in the German army were demanding the same representation among the commanding ranks and wanted the Hungarian language to be spoken and recognized as equal to German (Taruskin 373). Kossuth was “a kind of narrative of the 1848-1849 revolution, in which the Austrians are represented by a grotesque distortion of Haydn’s famous imperial anthem (‘Gott, erhalte Franz den Kaiser’), and Kossuth (by extension, the Hungarians) by a melody in the noblest magyar nota style” (Taruski 374), magyar nota meaning Old Hungarian song. Also while at the Academy, at about the same time that he discovered Strauss’s and Debussy’s music and adapted the genre and style of the tone poem to his own innovative compositions, Bartok met the composer Zoltan Kodaly, with whom he became a lifelong friend. Kodaly’s influence on Bartok was to introduce him to the music of the common people. Together they travelled the countryside collecting Slovak songs from the local peasants. These activities along with the popularity of Kossuth led him to become somewhat of a national hero, and his music came to represent what was Hungarian. According to Taruskin, “‘haughty accompanying rhythms,” “dotted pairs on every downbeat,” ... Read More
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