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20th Century Unit 1: Early ViolinUnit 2: Baroque Musical Period Unit 3: Classical Musical Period Unit 4: Romantic Musical Period Unit 5: 20th Century Musical PeriodUnit 6: Non Traditional



"Braul" from Romanian Folk Dances
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Fig. 5.6 Béla Bartók

Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was a Hungarian composer, pianist, teacher and ethnomusicologist (ethnomusicology is the study of music in its cultural context, particularly music not affiliated with European art music). He began taking piano lessons from his mother at a young age, and began writing piano music when he was 9 years old. Bartók studied music at the Budapest Academy of Music, and in the early 1900s, he became interested in Hungary's nationalistic movement to create a specifically Hungarian style of music.

Bartók's initial research into what was then regarded as Hungarian folk music, found that much of this music was of recent origin by popular composers, and were artistic imitations of Hungarian peasant music. In collaboration with the musician Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967), Bartók began to collect and systematically study previously unknown Hungarian peasant songs. Many of their collections of folksongs were published (e.g. A magyar néodak published in 1924, which presented 8000 Hungarian folksong melodies collected and classified by Bartók and Kodály). Later, Bartók expanded his research efforts to Romanian and Slovakian folk music, and he eventually collected, recorded, transcribed and analyzed folk music in areas such as North Africa (Arabic music in Biskra, Algeria), Croatia, Turkey, and Bulgaria. [21] [22]

Bartók spoke of the impact his studies of folk music had on his compositions:

The outcome of these studies was of decisive influence upon my work, because it freed me from the tyrannical rule of the major and minor keys. The great part of the collected treasure, and the more valuable part, was in old ecclesiastical or old Greek modes, or based on more primitive (pentatonic) scales, and the melodies were full of most free and varied rhythmic phrases and changes of tempi, played both rubato and giusto. It became clear to me that the old modes, which had been forgotten in our music, had lost nothing of their vigour. Their new employment made new rhythmic combinations possible. This new way of using the diatonic scale brought freedom from the rigid use of the major and minor keys, and eventually led to a new conception of the chromatic scale, every tone of which came to be considered of equal value and could be used freely and independently. [23]

Bartók used folk materials in many of his compositions, and took different approaches in his treatment of folk music. At times, he featured the folk melody as a rare jewel, and composed a simple arrangement to feature and highlight the melody. At other times, he did not quote folktunes directly, instead he imbued his compositions with folk music characteristics such as an expanded harmonic language and rhythm, with melodies that were either imitative or alluded to a folk music style. In many of his compositions, Bartók elevated folk music to the level of art music. His compositions included works in genres such as piano music, chamber music, orchestral compositions, theater music, an opera, ballets, choral music, songs, and folksong arrangements. [24] [25]

Bartok composed Romanian Folk Dances (Román nepi táncok) in 1915 for piano, and this composition is an example of Bartok adding a harmonized accompaniment to preexisting melodies. Bartok later arranged these dances for violin and piano, and for a chamber orchestra.

TECHNIQUE TIPS: The piece selected from Bartók's Romanian Folk Dances is the second dance, "Brâul." and this arrangement is based on Bartok's 1915 version for piano (brâul means "sash," and refers to a cloth belt worn by dancers). This is a dance piece, and the rhythm should be played freely, with rubato in many sections throughout the piece. Rubato means "robbed." It refers to a temporary robbing of time by either slowing or speeding the tempo or rhythmic value of notes in a passage of music. Although rubato is not indicated in the score of this arrangement, if you listen to recordings of this piece by orchestras or other musicians, it is likely that you will hear the use of rubato at the end of most of the musical phrases (e.g. measures 3-4; 7-8; 15-16; 19-20; 23-24; and 31-32). Other features of this arrangement include the use of dots over or under some of the notes, indicating a spicatto bow stroke should be used (spicatto is a bouncing, off-the-string stroke).