Family Concert: My Journey, My Music
- February 24, 2018
As a student at the Budapest Academy in his native Hungary, Bartok was educated in mainstream German and Austrian styles, and he graduated in 1903 writing music heavily influenced by Wagner and Strauss. The next year, while at a resort in what is now Slovakia, Bartok was so captivated by the singing he overheard from a Transylvanian-born maid that it launched him on one of the central pursuits of his life: to record and transcribe as many regional folksongs as he could find. Bartok became a pioneering scholar in the field of ethnomusicology, and over time he supervised the collection of some 14,000 distinct melodies, many of which he recorded himself using primitive wax cylinders.
In works like the Romanian Folk Dances from 1915, Bartok did not try to sanitize the authentic folk melodies by adding generic Western harmonies, nor did he pretend that his transcriptions for concert instruments would precisely recreate the nuanced inflections he captured on recording. Instead he developed a personal approach to these folksong arrangements that wrapped them in sparse and surprising accompaniments, blurring the line between composition and arrangement.
Aaron Grad ©2019