Bartók, Béla (Nagyszentmiklós, Transylvania, now Sinnicolau Mare, Romania, 25 March 1881 - New York, NY, USA, 26 September 1945) – Composer, concert pianist and musicologist. His musical interests and talents were already evident in childhood. The young Bartók’s first compositions, minor dances and a piano piece, called The Flow of the Danube (A Duna folyása) appeared in Nagyszőllős (now Vinohradiv, Ukraine). He first performed in public at a school festivity in 1892. At the beginning of 1894 his family moved to Pozsony (now Bratislava, Slovakia). This greatly contributed to his musical development, since musical life among the Hungarian country towns was the liveliest there. By the age of 18 he knew well the musical literature of the period from Bach to Brahms. In Pozsony he became acquainted with Ernő (Ernest) Dohnányi, four years his senior, on whose advice he enrolled not at the Conservatory of close-by Vienna, but in the Ferenc (Franz) Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. The great experiences of the college years supplied provisions for his whole life and created the awakening of his nationalistic and social thinking. The road to nationalism for Bartók pointed in the direction of social development and European culture. One of his early compositions is the Kossuth Symphony, written in 1903.
The years 1905-1906 brought a turning point in the career of the artist, as his attention turned toward folk music. With the help of Zoltán Kodály, he began a systematic collection of folk songs. Within a decade he had traveled through the most diverse parts of Hungary, especially Transylvania (Erdély, now in Romania) and soon extended his activities to the musical culture of other peoples as well. During a three-year period he did research work on several occasions in the Slovak speaking regions; and until World War I also in Romania. Relying on folk music sources, together with Kodály, he created a new Hungarian musical style. However, their work was not looked upon favorably. It was treated with indifference and even hostility. The decade following World War I was spent on a series of concert tours. He gave concerts in Germany, England, France, Holland and Italy. Later he traveled to the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1936, at the invitation of the Turkish Government, he went on a folk music collecting tour in southern Anatolia.
He was recognized the world over, and respected as a performer and composer. In Hungary official opinion of him slowly changed in his favor. For 27 years he was professor at the Ferenc (Franz) Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, the position he left in 1934. Finally in 1940, he and his second wife, Ditta Pásztory, left for the United States for political reasons. Bartók, one of the outstanding Hungarian musicians of the 20th century, spent his last years in New York. He died on 16 September 1945. His funeral was held in New York’s Fern Cliff Cemetery. On 22 June 1988 his remains were exhumed and after an official farewell in New York, the casket was put on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II, shipped to Great Britain, and then taken to Hungary. There were Bartók memorial celebrations in Southampton and later in Cherbourg, France. Concerts and exhibitions celebrated the accomplishments of the great Hungarian composer for ten days in France. Among his greatest works are the three Piano Conceretos (1926, 1931, 1945); Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937); the two Violin Concertos (1907, 1938); the Sonata for Solo Violin, written for Yehudi Menuhin (1944); the six great String Quartets; the one-act ballet The Wooden Prince (1914-1916); the pantomime-ballet The Miraculous Mandarin (1919); the one-act opera Bluebeard’s Castle (1911); Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste (1936); Divertimento for Strings and Orchestra (1939), and Concerto for Orchestra (1943). – B: 0883, 1031, T: 7684.→Kodály, Zoltán; Dohnányi, Ernő; Lajtha, László.