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Bela Bartok: Hungarian composer (1881-1945)

Bela Bartok, Hungarian composer of operatic, choral, symphonic, vocal, violin and piano works, as well as his work in ethnomusicology (folk music/ traditional musical customs) was honored to the Cleveland Hungarian Cultural Garden in 1975. 

His birthplace was Nagyszentmikios (Great St. Nicholas).  In 1899 Bartok studied at the Academy of Music in Budapest, and by 1907 he became the piano instructor at the Academy.  When he made his first trip to Transylvania to “study the Székely people who had developed in isolation from other Hungarians and might, thus, have preserved some of the more ancient traditions” (Unitarian Universalist Dictionary ).

His 1908 Violin Concerto begins to implement his studies of traditional folk music, as an “authentically Hungarian Bartók emerged, with the 4ths of Magyar folksong, the rhythms of peasant dance and the scales he had discovered among Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak peoples” (Harvard Square Library ).  Later compositions include: The Dance Suite, composed in 1923 for the 50th anniversary of the unification of the city of Budapest, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta in 1936. 

In 1940 he was forced to emigrate to the U.S., although he thought of his emigration as more of an exile.  Bela Bartok died in a New York Hospital September 26, 1946 of Lukemia.

Dr. Joseph Remenyi, modern Hungarian composer, describes the music of Bela Bartok as a vital symbol of the Hungarian cultural spirit, insofar as it portrays "an interplay between the emotional and ethical forces of national traditions and those of individualism, as understood in Western Europe." (Lederer, Clara. Their Paths are Peace.  p. 65).


For more on the Hungarian Cultural Garden

Photographs of the Garden

Further Reading:

Free musical samples

The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

Unitarian Universalist Dictionary.

Harvard Square Library.

Cleveland State University Special Collections Library.