About this Recording
9.70208 - BARTÓK, B.: Mikrokosmos, Vols. 2 and 3 (L. Kertész)

Béla Bartók (1881–1945)
Piano Music • 6


The Hungarian composer Béla Bartók was born in 1881 in a region that now forms part of Romania. His father, director of an agricultural college, was a keen amateur musician, while it was from his mother that he received his early piano lessons. The death of his father in 1889 led to a less settled existence, as his mother returned to work as a teacher, eventually making her home in Pozsony, the modern Bratislava, where Bartók passed his early adolescence, counting among his school-fellows the composer Ernő Dohnányi. Offered the chance of musical training in Vienna, like Dohnányi he chose instead Budapest, where he won a considerable reputation as a pianist, being appointed to the teaching staff of the Academy of Music in 1907. At the same time he developed a deep interest, shared with his compatriot Zoltán Kodály, in the folk music of his own and adjacent countries, later extended as far as Anatolia, where he collaborated with the Turkish composer Adnan Saygun.

As a composer Bartók found acceptance much more difficult, particularly in his own country, which was, in any case, beset by political troubles, when the brief post-war left-wing government of Béla Kun was replaced by the reactionary régime of Admiral Horthy. Meanwhile his reputation abroad grew, particularly among those with an interest in contemporary music, and his success both as a pianist and as a composer, coupled with dissatisfaction at the growing association between the Horthy government and National Socialist Germany, led him in 1940 to emigrate to the United States of America.

In his last years, after briefly holding teaching positions at Columbia and Harvard, Bartók suffered from increasing ill-health and from poverty which the conditions of exile in war time could do nothing to alleviate. He died in straitened circumstances in 1945, leaving a new Viola Concerto incomplete and a Third Piano Concerto more nearly finished.

Keith Anderson

Mikrokosmos Volumes 2 and 3

Bartók wrote the six volumes of Mikrokosmos (1926–37) with an educational purpose in mind and at the highest artistic level, always paying attention to technical, stylistic and musical aspects. A great reformer in the twentieth century, he sought to win over children to his innovations. This extensive series therefore gives an insight into Bartók’s creative work. In the first three books the student is offered help to improve his playing technique, which is reflected in the names of the pieces in order of difficulty: unison, parallel movement, contrary motion, mirror image, syncopation, canon. The student is introduced to folk scales and other keys, polyphony, colour- or accented block chords, lyrical or programme pieces. Important requirements include melodic contour, tempo, dynamics, articulation, and accuracy with accents, all of which teach the student accurately to render the score. The pieces in Mikrokosmos are treasures of piano teaching with universal value.

Lajos Kertész
English version by Nicholas Bodóczky

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