Bela Bartok is a challenge. His music – I love it. But to write about it… It took me a long time to warm up to his language, but once I had summoned the courage to explore his works in detail, I was greatly rewarded. The String Quartets recorded by the Emerson String Quartet – what a fascinating universe! Bartok is unique in his style and perhaps in his ambitions as a composer. Transcending the principles of the Vienna classics era, blending the teachings of the past, serialism* included, with folk music elements and composing principles from different ethnic backgrounds, forging thus a contemporary music style that compares to no other – how daring! Chapeau.
The wind, the wind, the heaven-born wind – you probably recognize that. It’s Hänsel and Gretel’s answer to the witch’s question: “Nibble, nibble, gnaw, who’s nibbling at my little house?” This string quartet is like the wind, or rather it is a whisper murmured into the wind, not meant to stay, meant to be blown away. Is it a lamentation? A silent prayer? A half-audible thought? A drawn-out sob about a sad reminiscence?
Haunting melodies – perhaps this describes the essence of Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s String Quartet No. 2, Op. 35. Franz Schubert catapulted into the second half of the 20th century. 1958: Europe caught up in the Cold War, France struggling with decolonization, a Fascist regime in Spain and a young Muslim nation guarding NATO’s southern flank – Turkey. A world in turmoil. 1958: Riots between Turks and Greeks shake the Anatolian peninsula, the economy is in deep trouble, a military coup is in the air. Turkey in turmoil.
Did you like yesterday’s post? Did you enjoy Telemann’s music? I hope so. This is an impromptu, an unscheduled post, that I wrote just because I felt I must. It could not wait. I could not wait. And I will be brief.
In 1915 the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok wrote a highly popular set of Six Romanian Folk Dances (BB 68). World War I had been going on for a year already, and Bartok, unfit for military duty, served his country by collecting and re-arranging folk music. If Telemann’s violin fantasies are a Baroque path to happiness, Bartok’s set of piano pieces is a modern path to happiness.