Bartók in Bratislava

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18-year-old Bartók in high school.

Slovak song "When I went to war..." Bartók wrote down in 1917 and adapted for a 4-part men's chorus (Allegretto; 30" sample), click to play:

Mikrokosmos Book 1
"Melody 1" of Six Unison Melodies; composed for the piano in 1926, click to play (21"):

Bartók in New York

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Bartók (center) in concert with jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman (right) and József Szigeti in 1940.

Jazzed up in Bratislava

Bartók's Mikrokosmos performed by Marián Varga and his progressive-art-rock group Collegium Musicum in 1975 (30" sample).

Click to play:

Béla Bartók

Q: Was Béla Bartók Slovak?

Béla Bartók, a renowned composer, was born on 25 March 1881 in Sânnicolau Mare, now in Romania, and baptized Roman Catholic (he converted to Unitarianism typical of his native Transylvania after his first marriage). He immigrated in 1940 and died in New York on 26 September 1945.

His mother Paula née Voit was born in Martin, now in Slovakia, in 1857, and married Béla's future father (also Béla) in 1880. In 1893-1899 Béla Jr. attended high school in Bratislava (called Prešporok by the Slovaks then) where his mother moved a few years after his father's death in 1888. He then moved to Budapest.

Bartók's fascination with folk music started at the age of 23 during his extended stay at a farm in the Slovak hamlet of Hrlica when he oveheard a lullaby sung by a vacationing government official's family servant, 19-year-old Lidi Dósa from Chibed. Bartók later collected folk songs from all over the Kingdom of Hungary, some 3,400 in his collection were Slovak.

Bartók never lived in the Slovak-majority areas of the Kingdom (Bratislava was about 65% German, 20% Hungarian, and 15% Slovak when he arrived there), nor did he show greater interest in Slovak songs than in the songs of the Kingdom's other ethnic groups. He identified strongly as Hungarian, one of his (failed) youthful goals was to convert his mother's German-speaking family to using Hungarian.