Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra
Image: Bartók recording folk music.
This is part of our series called Talking About Music, led by Prof. Mike Worboys. Talking about Music is both talking about and listening to music. Each session focuses on one or two works, discusses the background and context to the music, reviews the works themselves, with musical examples, and then we listen. No specialist musical knowledge is required.
"By now I have met many hundreds of composers, but I should not think that one of them has been able to approach Bartók in sensitivity and musical sincerity. In his presence one felt inescapably that here was an extraordinary personality”
Aaron Copland (1945)
This talk will discuss Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, and focus particularly on the composer’s skilled use of the instruments of the orchestra. We usually think of a concerto as a musical work in which a small group of instruments, often just a solo instrument, is pitted against a larger group, usually the full orchestra. So, a concerto for orchestra appears at first glance to be a contradiction in terms. Bartók chose this striking title because each instrument, or group of instruments, is treated as a soloist in its own right.
Bartók composed his Concerto for Orchestra in the USA in the last years of his life, having fled from his native Hungary in 1940 for political reasons. He had made a lifelong study of Hungarian folk melodies, and the themes and rhythms of the Concerto are infused with their spirit. Written in an accessible musical style, the Concerto for Orchestra is Béla Bartók’s last and most popular orchestral work.
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