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Order Number 9016829

Bela Bartok’s “Fourteen Bagatelles”, Op. 6: Determining


performance authenticity

Fischer, Anne Victoria, D.M .A.


The University of Texas at Austin, 1989

Copyright ©1989 by Fischer, Anne Victoria. All rights reserved.

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R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


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B&IA BAR'itfK'S FOURTEEN BAGATELLES, OP. 6:

DEl’Fltf'ilNING PERFORMANCE AUTHENTICITY

by

Anne Victoria Fischer, B.M., M.M., M.A.

TREATISE

Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of

The University of Texas at Austin

in Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements

for the Degree of

Doctor of Musical Arts

THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

December, 1989

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


BfiLA BARTOK'S FOURTEEN BAGATELLES, OP. 6:

DETERMINING PERFORMANCE AUTHENTICITY

CU k il Oic.k ^S-lUco

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


Copyright

by

Anne Victoria Fischer

1989

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To rny parents,

Marge and Al Fischer

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PREFACE

My intense interest in the music of Bela Bartok was first

inspired in the graduate courses I took at the University of Texas

with Dr. Elliott Antokoletz. When I concurrently began to study a

number of Bartok works at the piano, particularly the Fourteen

Bagatelles, Op. 6, I was fascinated by the variety of

interpretative problems I encountered. I felt a deep and

fundamental attraction for the music, but the closer I got to it,

the more I suspected that I had only scratched the surface of its

full meaning. I began to set my sights on delving into these

problems, choosing this subject as my dissertation topic.

In July 1987 I attended the International Bartok Festival and

Seminar in Szombathely, Hungary, and there had the extreme good

fortune of working with Dr. Laszlo Somfai, director of the Budapest

Bartok Archive, whose generous tutelage provided me with insights

previously unsuspected. The pianists Zoltan Kocsis and Imre

Rohmann conducted masterclasses in which I was able to absorb many

aspects of Bartok performance style from masterful experts in the

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm iss io n .


subject. The advice I received and the performances I witnessed

were essential to the development of the concepts contained in this

treatise and to my own Bartok piano style.

The following year, at the National American Musicological

Society Meeting in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr.

Benjamin Suchoff, former Successor-Trustee of the Estate of Bela

Bartok and Director of the New York Bartok Archive. Dr. Suchoff

shared his profound knowledge of the Bartok materials, and greatly

aided and supported this study through subsequent correspondence

and further discussions at this year's (1989) AMS meeting in

Austin. He also suggested (in 1987) that I visit Peter Bartok, the

son of the composer, who now houses the New York Archive near his

heme in Homosassa, Florida.

The University of Texas supplied me with a research grant,

and in the Spring of 1988 I visited Peter Bartok and the Archive in

Homosassa. Mr. Bartok was incredibly generous, and thanks to him

and his secretary Hope Kellman, I was given free rein to explore

his collection. This exposure to the primary documents supplied me

with the hard evidence I needed to support the instincts I was

vi

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


developing in response to Bartok's music.

I wish to express my ardent and affectionate gratitude to Dr.

Antokoletz for his unflagging enthusiasm for Bartok's music, which

inspired my own, for his generously shared expertise and insight,

and for his consistent support and encouragement. 1 am also deeply

grateful to David Renner, whose incredible musicianship and unerring

musical instincts at the piano have always been an inspiration,

for his encouragement of my developing Bartok playing; his esteem

has been instrumental in my growing confidence. I am also

deeply appreciative of the special attention I received from Dr.

Somfai and Dr. Suchoff, both of whcm are unrivalled in their wealth

of knowledge and experience of Bartok's music. Special thanks to

Peter Bartok for his generosity in granting me access to his

materials.

In addition to those already mentioned, there are many other

people richly deserving of my gratitude in the pursuit of this

project: Dr. Jay Pierson, for Sibley Library detective work; Dr.

Amanda Vick Lethco, Dr. Betty Mallard and Dr. Patrick tfcCreless, my

vii

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friends and doctoral committee members; staunch friends and

supporters Natalie Crawford, Carol Barrett and John Novak, and of

course my beloved parents and family, for patience and moral

support.

viii

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


BfiLA BARTON'S FOURTEEN BAGATELLES, OP. 6:

DETERMINING PERFORMANCE AUTHENTICITY

Publication No. _______________

Anne Victoria Fischer, D.M.A.

The University of Texas at Austin, 1989

Supervising Professors: Elliott Antokoletz


David Renner

The goal of any serious performer should be to achieve

authenticity in performance, i.e. a performance in accordance with

the original intentions of the composer. In order to develop an

authentic performance style in the piano music of Bela Bartok a

ix

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


number of influential elements must be considered. The Fourteen

Bagatelles, Cp. 6 represent the crucial emergence of Bartok's

personal musical idiom early in his career, and a study of the

influences upon their creation serves as a reference to the wider

body of Bartok's piano music. The historical background of the

Bagatelles— Bartok's folksong collecting tours, his feelings of

nationalism and his life and work in Budapest and in the

countryside— have a direct bearing on the interpretation of his

works of the tine.

Bartok's folk music interests directly influenced the

musical style of the Bagatelles. T\vo of the movements are based on

authentic folk melodies, but the folk influences extend far beyond

mere quotation to the absorption of tonal, harmonic and rhythmic

elements of folk music into Bartok's musical language.

The Bagatelles are in sane important respects

autobiographical. The end of Bartok's love affair with Stefi Geyer

is directly related to Bagatelles No. 13 and 14, and his concurrent

attitudes about the relationships between men and women, and about

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politics, religion, and the role of the artist in society are

reflected in more subtle ways.

Although there have been a number of editions and recordings

of the Bagatelles, many problems still exist for the performer.

Bartok's didactic notation is full of markings, especially those

related to articulation, which are potentially confusing. He had

an unorthodox approach to piano technique and tried to communicate

very specific and subtle instructions through these markings.

Tempo marks are also problematic in Op. 6, partly because of

discrepancies between the various primary sources and editions,

partly because of the faulty roetrancme Bartok is known to have used

in his early creative years.

With the information supplied, evaluated and interpreted in

this study, the performer will be prepared to make the proper

interpretative decisions appropriate to an authentic Bartok piano

style.

xi

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface............................................... v

Abstract............................................. ix

Introduction.......................................... 1

Chapter One:
Historical Background of the Bagatelles............... 8

Chapter Two:
The Musical Style of the Bagatelles.................. 20

Chapter Three:
Folk Elements in the Bagatelles...................... 57

Chapter Four:
Autobiographical Elements of the Bagatelles........... 87

Chapter Five:
Problems With the Score............................ 117

Chapter Six:
Conclusion ................................. 140

Appendix:
Analytical Notes to the Fourteen Bagatelles, Op. 6 .... 143

Bibliography.........................................157

xii

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INTRODUCTION

The goal of any serious performer should be to achieve

authenticity in performance, that is, an interpretation as close as

possible to the original intentions of the composer. Performance

authenticity is generally understood to relate to the correctness

of the printed edition in terms of pitch, tempo, touch indications,

etc. However, in the piano music of Bela Bartok much more is

involved than merely the editorial details of the printed score.

One should becoire familiar with the origins and influences on

Bartok's piano style, which include the musical training of the

cctnposer, his interest in folk music, and his attitudes concerning

music and culture. Chly from this broader perspective can the

performer arrive at a truly authentic performance.

There are certain elements that dictate less freedom of

interpretation in Bartok's piano music than, say, a piano sonata of

Beethoven. Because of the universal nature of Beethoven's music

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2

and the long tradition of its performance, two very different

approaches to interpretation, more or less free and rcmantic in

style, can be equally appropriate. Bartok's music, however, has

specific influences, especially those from folk music, which

determine, for instance, the manner in which a certain rhythm

should be inflected (e.g. the authentic parlando rubato style).

The points upon which Bartok himself specifically commented and the

recordings of his own performances provide indisputable evidence in

these and certain other questions of performance.

Bartok's piano works represent one of the most significant

contributions to the pianist's repertoire in the twentieth century.

As with his compositions for other performing media, the musical

and harmonic language in his piano music embody innovations and

levels of inspiration reached by only a very few of the great

geniuses of his time. In addition, the piano works represent a new

and individual approach to composition for that specific medium.

Bartok looked upon the piano, his own instrument, in a

nontraditional and unorthodox manner, and developed an idiomatic

style of piano writing uniquely his own.

Some of Bartok's piano works have beccme a standard part of

the performing and teaching repertoire, but many remain largely

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unfamiliar. Certainly the entire body of piano works does not

receive exposure in proportion to its significance in terms of

historical development and musical value. Perhaps this relative

neglect of many Bartok works has to do with the inherent stylistic

problems faced in their interpretation. Even those who do include

Bartok in their performing and teaching diet often miss the mark

stylistically. As contrasted with the long traditions handed down

from teacher to student associated with composers of earlier eras,

an awareness of an authentic Bartok piano style seems to be missing

in the United States and Western Europe.

There are many aspects of Bartok's piano style that one can

and should investigate in order to arrive at a better understanding

and more authentic interpretation of the music. Because of the

ethnic inspiration, we in the West lack a cultural sensitivity to

the subtle inflections of rhythm or mood that a Hungarian might

respond to more naturally. Much of Bartok's folk-oriented music is

dependent upon the inflection of Hungarian text settings or dance

rhythms. Even in those works not overtly influenced by folk song,

various aspects of these Hungarian elements can subtly enhance the

performance.

The intention of this treatise is to explore a number of

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areas related to an authentic interpretation by means of a study of

the Fourteen Bagatelles, Op. 6 (1908). The Bagatelles contain in

microcosm the seeds of all that was to come in Bartok's piano

writing. They nark the first crucial turning point in his

composing career, representing a radical change from the ultra-

chromatic, late-Ranantic German idicm to a completely new and

individual musical language drawn from the folk music of his native

land and influenced by various trends in the early twentieth

century. It was at this juncture that Bartok began to establish

his own remarkable musical style— this included a primarily linear

contrapuntal approach, a rejection of principles of functional

harmony in favor of those related to modality and new ways of

establishing tonal priority, and a new concept of piano sonority

and technique.

As with nearly all composers and their works, the

circumstances surrounding the actual composition of the Bagatelles

should be of interest to anyone considering their interpretation.

An interest in autobiographical facts is especially appropriate in

this case because there is every reason to assume that the general

tone and mood as well as specific references in the music are

relevant to events in Bartok's life and his philosophical beliefs

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5

at the tine of composition.

As Bartok's style became increasingly individual, he

attempted to communicate his specific musical ideas to pianists

by means of innovative performance indications in the score. He had

an entirely original conception of piano touch and sonority, and in

the Bagatelles strove to develop notational markings to express

subtle gradations, for example, in the way the pianist should

strike the keys. Sane of these punctuation indications were

invented by Bartok, but for the most part he sought to express his

specific intentions with new applications of markings already in

standard use. Unfortunately it seems that the more specifically he

attempted to communicate these ideas, the easier it has become to

misconstrue his meaning. Because of his copious use of such

devices, works such as the Bagatelles can appear quite formidable

unless one becomes conversant with this musical punctuation. This

is an aspect of Bartok's piano music often ignored by pianists.

To date, interpretations of the Bagatelles have often been

problematical in terms of authenticity, due to either a lack of

stylistic understanding, or to misleading evidence in editions and

existing recorded performances. There have been a number of

editions of the work, and sane of the editorial problems have been

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6

addressed, but some remain in even the most recent, otherwise


1
accurate edition by Benjamin Suchoff. The original recordings,
2
such as those by Gyflrgy Sa'ndor and Kornel Zempleni, which in many

ways set the standard for Bartok piano interpretations, were based

on the faulty editions available at the time the recordings were

made, and therefore played a large role in perpetuating errors.

Many of the problems of interpretation to be addressed here

are not immediately soluble. Even with the benefit of original

manuscripts, obvious or absolute answers are often lacking. The

goal of this paper is to define and discuss those aspects of the

music most crucial to an authentic performance, evaluate the

various kinds of evidence available to the performer, supply some

information not readily accessible, and make reoonmendations for

authenticity based on an assimilation of the various sources

surveyed. No attempt will be made to prescribe one definitive

1. The Piano Music of Bela Bartok. The Archive Edition, Series


I, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1981).
2. Sandor, Bartok Piano Music (Complete), Vol. Ill (Vox 5427);
Zempleni, Bela Bartok Complete Edition, Series 2, Vol. 2
(Hungaroton LPV 1299.

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interpretation. Rather, basic principles will be established

upon which the performer can base interpretations1 decisions and

ultimately arrive at a greater understanding of the essential

Bartok style.

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CHAPTER ONE

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE BAGATELLES

The year 1908 was a landmark in Bartok's stylistic

evolution, and the Fourteen Bagatelles, Op. 6, are the most

crucial work of this compositional phase. Bartok established

his personal style in this and several other opuses composed at

this tine. Many of the piano works frcm 1908 to 1910 are, like

the Bagatelles, collections of short pieces. The Ten Easy

Pieces, also written in 1908, and Vazlatok [Seven Sketches], Op.

9b of 1908 and 1910, are the most aesthetically akin to the

Bagatelles, although Ten Easy Pieces were composed with a more

pedagogical purpose in mind. All three sets illustrate Bartok's

increasingly eclectic style— aspects of vastly different

influences appear in adjacent movements. The composer employs

quotations of authentic folk tunes and the assimilation of folk­

like elements into original music, as well as piano writing

influenced by the style of Debussy, which with Bartok had only

recently become familiar. Ventures into the new trends in art

music of the time are contrasted with the folk-related

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9

techniques. Other collections concentrated on a single aspect.

For Children is a two volume collection of simple settings of

forty Hungarian (Vol. I) and forty Slovakian (Vol. 2) folk

tunes. TWo Romanian Dances, Op. 8a of 1909-1910, reveal Bartok

working with authentic folk and original folk-like materials in

a more virtuosic pianistic style. Two Elegies, Op. 8b (1908,

1909) and Negy Siratoenek [Four Dirges], Op. 9a exploit his

fascination with Debussian style, and Harem Burleszk (Three

Burlesques], Op. 8c are experiments with other new techniques

like sore found in the Bagatelles. This burst of compositional

activity also produced the Violin Concerto No. 1 (1907-8), Ket

portre [Two portraits] for orchestra (1907-8, 1911), and the

String Quartet No. 1, Op. 7, written in 1908. Each collection

reveals facets of Bartok's developing techniques in a microcosm.

Thus we find many art music and folk music elements already

manipulated in experimental works, of which the Bagatelles are

the most radical.

Although the Bagatelles represent the most important step

in a new phase in Bartok's compositional development, traces of

these tendencies can already be seen in earlier works. His first

mature works for piano were written in 1903 and 1904. During

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10

these years the composer, in his early twenties, was already

committed to a fervent nationalism, something that would

eventually motivate him toward discovery of the folk sources in

his search for a national identity. He resented the well-

entrenched German domination of Hungarian culture and politics,

and sought in his musical expression an outlet for his Hungarian

soul. He had experienced a period of stagnation working within

the Wagner-Strauss style, and it was in his search for his own

national voice that evidence of his new tendencies emerged. In a

short autobiography, written at age 24 in December 1905, he

spoke proudly of successes to date:

My Kossuth symphony was performed with great success

in 1904 in Budapest, later in Manchester [England}.

This year, in March, I had a great success as a

pianist in Budapest, also 2 weeks ago in Manchester; 1

week ago my Suite for Orchestra, with its totally

Hungarian character, produced a sensation


3
in Vienna.

3. The Piano Music of Bela Bartok, p. vii.

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11

Bartok signed off "With patriotic greetings", clearly proud

of the "totally Hungarian character" of his music. The Hungarian

elements to which he was referring at this time were taken from the

Magyar nota, a type of urban popular song, and the gypsy style

commonly considered to represent Hungarian folk music, basically

the same as those drawn upon in the Hungarian Dances of Brahms or

the Hungarian Rhapsodies of Liszt. The keyboard works of 1903 and

1904, richly imbued with the popular gypsy flavor, include the

"Marcia funebre" from Kossuth (1903), a piano transcription by

Bartok from the symphonic poem to which he referred above; Four

Pieces for Piano (1903); and the Rhapsody, designated by the

composer as Cp. 1 (1904).

Although already of a somewhat radical philosophical bent,

Bartok up to this point was operating comfortably within the

musical parameters established in the late-nineteenth century. His

early musical experience included a firmly traditional exposure to

Beethoven and the German Romantics. At the Budapest Academy of

Music he was a student of Istvan Thoman, a former Liszt student,

who instilled a pianistic style directly influenced by the

innovations of the great Liszt. But the young Bartok soon found

the legacy of gypsy music insufficient for his lively musical

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12

imagination, and philosophically wanted to move away fran the

excessive Rananticism of the nineteenth-century Germans.

In 1904, while visiting friends in the country, Bartok

overheard a peasant girl named Lidi Dosa singing a folk-style

popular art song with modal inflection. He was intrigued by her

music, completely different fran the popular gypsy style of the

cafes, and found revealed in it the path that would lead him to his

own original and thoroughly Hungarian musical voice.

In my studies of folk music I discovered that what we

had known as Hungarian folk songs till then were more

or less trivial songs by popular composers and did not

contain much that was valuable. I felt an urge to go

deeper into this question and set out in 1905 to

collect and study Hungarian peasant music unknown


4
until then.

In 1905 Bartok met Zoltan Kodaly, who was completing his

thesis on Hungarian folk music at the Budapest Academy. Bartok

began to study Kodaly's thesis materials, and the two developed a

4. Bela Bartok Essays, ed. Benjamin Suchoff (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1976) p. 409.

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close friendship based initially on their mutual fascination with

Hungarian peasant music. Bartok and Kodaly embarked in 1906 on the

first of several excursions into the Hungarian countryside,

collecting and recording what eventually became a monumental

catalogue of authentic peasant melodies. 3artok began collecting

Slovakian tunes in the fall of 1906, shortly after his first

Hungarian folk song expedition. In addition to Hungarian and

Slovakian tunes, his research eventually led him to investigate

folk sources fran Rumania, Ruthenia (part of the Ukraine), northern

Africa, Bulgaria, Turkey and Yugoslavia. These later

ethnomusicological endeavors, however, occurred after the

completion of the Bagatelles.

The discovery of native folk music was the inspiration for

which Bartok had yearned. His musical language found expression

in this newly-discovered source, which propelled him towards

an original stylistic evolution. For years he had sought a new

canpositional direction in pre-existing styles, but only in folk

music did he find his inspiration.

All these activities came to fruition in the Bagatelles,

which were composed in early 1908. A few dates are certifiable

from evidence in the manuscripts: Bagatelle No. 13 was written on

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14

February 14, No. 14 on March 20, and No. 1 on April 14. The set was

ccmpleted during May of that year, according to the date at the end

of the score in the first printed edition.

The premiere of the work occurred in a private performance on

May 1908 in Ferruccio Busoni's studio class in Vienna, with Bartok

himself at the piano. Bartok announced the upcoming event in a

letter to his mother dated May 27:

Busoni was very pleased with the Fourteen Larger Piano

Pieces (the one which lasts 25 minutes) and he would be

most gratified if I would play them for his piano

students on Monday. He wrote a marvelous letter of

reoorrmendation to the firm of Breitkopf and Hctrtel...5

The great Busoni was wildly enthusiastic about the piece, as

Bartok excitedly wrote to his dear friend Etelka Freund, a Busoni

piano student herself:

5. Bdla Bartok Letters, ed. Janos Demeny, translation by Peter


Balaban and Istvan Farkas, rev. Elizabeth West and Colin Mason
(London: Faber & Faber, 1971) p. 89.

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15

Busoni was very pleased with the piano pieces. "Endlich

etwas wirklich neues", ["Finally something really new"] he

said. Tomorrow I'm going to play all 14 of them at his

piano-class. He has given me a very nice letter of

recoirmendation for Messrs. Breitkopf & Hdrtel. We shall


6
see how much it's really worth.

The public premiere was held in Paris on March 12, 1910,

on a concert billed as "Festival Hongroise." Bartok was the

pianist, and emitted what is now Bagatelle No. 8. The program

lists the work as "Thirteen Bagatelles." The Bagatelles were

heard in Hungary for the first time at the Budapest Royal Hall

on March 19, 1910. Bartok played the piano, this time omitting

Nos. 6, 8, ]1, and 13.

Busoni's enthusiastic letter recommending the Bagatelles

proved ineffective in winning the support of the publishing firm

Breitkopf and Hdrtel. Citing than as "extraordinarily difficult and


7
modern pieces," too inaccessible for the musical public, Breitkopf

6. Ibid., p. 90
7. Bela Bartok Complete Edition (Hungaroton). Program notes by
Laszlo Somfai, p. 8.

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16

declined to undertake an edition of the work.

Busoni's support was finally influential when the Hungarian

publisher Rosznyai agreed to produced the first edition in the fall

of 1908. The advertisement for this first edition included Busoni's

endorsement:

...I hold these pieces to be among the most interesting

and original of our time; what the composer has to say


8
is out of the ordinary, and entirely individual...

Bartok was himself very much aware of the "newness" of his

Bagatelles. Busoni recognized the value of their innovations, but

the general public did not share his openness to such radically new

sounds and ideas. At the Paris premiere Bartok omitted No. 8 , one

of the most nontraditional movements of the set. In Budapest three

more were left out, each in its own way vastly contrary to the

norms of public expectation. Even the pianist Robert Freund,

Etelka's older brother, and a man highly respected by Bartok had

difficulty comprehending Op. 6, as his polite but guarded response

suggests. Referring to the musical language of the Bagatelles as

8. Ibid.

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"kuttne Harmonik" [audacious hannony], he wrote:

Ihre Musik ist eben nicht ftlr Viele geschrieben, sorriern

wendet sich an die Wenigen, die sich nicht durch einige

Sonderbarkeiten abschrecken lassen, vielmehr bestrebt


9
sind, in die Eigenart des Komponisten einzudringen.

[Your music is simply not intended for the masses, but

appeals to the few who are not startled by the various

peculiarities, rather endeavor to penetrate the

singularity of the composer.]

Bartok's compositional boldness seems to have plunged him

immediately into the position he was so often to assume in his

career, that of man ahead of his tine, destined to be

misunderstood, forced to walk the tightrope between his personal

vision and what the world could accept.

It seems that Bartok had never performed the entire work on a

public concert. Apparently he did not play even individual

movanents after the initial three performances, except for NOs.

9. Warner Fuchss, Bela Bartok und die Schweiz


(Bern: Nationale Schweizerische UNESCO-Konmission, 1973) p. 17.

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18

2, 7, and 10, which he recorded in 1912. Perhaps this was due

to a lack of positive response to the first performances. Bartok

described the general attutude of the public:

My works which, fran Op. 4 onward, tried to convey scne

of the developnent [of his new musical language] were -


10
received in Budapest with animosity.

Certainly his attention was diverted to new works and

interests as time went by, but the negative reception at both

the Parisian and Hungarian premieres, as well as fran Robert

Freund and Breitkopf & HSrtel, must have caused Bartok to shy

away from performances of the Bagatelles. He performed piano

recitals of his own works most of his life. Althouqh other works

from this period were included throughout his performing career,

the Bagatelles were not.

And yet it is certain that Bartok held his Bagatelles in

high regard. He returned to this work in 1945, the year of his

death, in preparation for a collection of piano pieces fran

early in his career, including all but No. 11 of the Bagatelles

10. Essays, p. 410.

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19

(according to the contract signed and dated by Bartok). The

volume was never produced because of his death, but he did

compose an introduction, including specific comments concerning

the Bagatelles.

It is fitting that the Bagatelles framed Bartok's entire

compositional career in a way. They were the vehicle for the

emergence of his pcwerful and unique musical voice at the very

beginning of his career. And once again, at the end of his dynamic

and productive life, his energies were focused on this collection

of diminutive pieces, this visionary work.

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CHAPTER TWO

THE MUSICAL STYLE OF THE BAGATELLES

The Bagatelles present a fascinating stylistic study for

performers because they are unlike anything else written up to

their time. They represent the first synthesis in Bartok's style of

the various influences of folk and Western art music. The musical

language of the Bagatelles has been discussed at length by

prominent scholars, and, rather than undertaking yet another

detailed and complex analysis here, the reader will be referred to

useful published analyses. The purpose of this chapter is to

discuss general influences and characteristics of the musical

style, with special emphasis on the specific problems encountered

in interpreting the music which are of particular interest to

pianists. A suirmary of the main points of musical construction,

20

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21

tonal assertion, and structure of each Bagatelle is included in

the Appendix.

Because of their revolutionary character and multitude of

new techniques, the Bagatelles have attracted the interest of a

number of important analysts. Bartok himself wrote about them

at various points in his career, and Zoltan Kodaly copied No. 6

from a manuscript for his own study. Arnold Schoenberg included


10
an example from the Bagatelles in his Harmonielehre of 1911.

Modern scholars who have referred to analytical points of the


11
Bagatelles include Laszlo Scmfai, director of the Budapest
12
Bartok Archive, and Elliott Antokoletz.

Bartok's writings contain several references to his Op. 6.

One of the earliest appeared in A Dictionary of Modern Music and

10. (Leipzig and Vienna: Universal Edition, 1911)


11. Bela Bartok Complete Edition recording, program notes by
Laszlo Somfai.
12. The Music of Bela Bartok. A Study of Tonality and
Progression in Twentieth-Century Music (Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 1984).

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22

Musicians, published in 1924 by Dent and Sons. Bartok furnished

most of the articles pertaining to Hungarian music and musicians

in this volume, and served on the committee which compiled the

article entitled "Harmony". In it, an excerpt from Bagatelle No.

_1 is included as an example of polytonality. (This could not

have been Bartok's work, however, because the example is

mislabeled as "No. 6." Bartok's later comments show that he did

not think of it in terms of polytonality. See the discussion

later in this chapter.) In the second of the Harvard lectures

(1943) a reference to the seventh Bagatelle is included as an

example of various polvmodal procedures used within a

movement.
13 Bartok's most extensive explanation of the musical
style of the Bagatelles appeared in his introduction for a

proposed edition of early piano pieces in 1945, in which he

stated:

No essential changes have been introduced but for adding

fingerings to all the pieces...the oldest of these sets

of pieces are the Bagatelles, written in May 1908. In

13. Essays, p. 370.

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23

these, a new piano style appears as a reaction to the

exuberance of the romantic piano music of the nineteenth

century; a style stripped of all unessential

decorative elements, deliberately using only the most

restricted technical means. As later developments show,

the Bagatelles inaugurate a new trend of piano writing in

my career, which is consistently followed in almost all

of my successive piano works, with more or less


14
modifications,...

In this introduction Bartok continues to elaborate on the tonality

of several of the movements, a subject which will be discussed

later in this chapter.

The program notes to the volume of Bela Bartok Complete


15
Edition recordings including the Bagatelles contains a short

description by Scmfai of the musical style of each movement. These

are by no means in-depth analyses, but serve as a helpful and

accessible introduction to this complex subject. Scmfai's notes

14. Ibid., p. 432.


15. Hungaraton, (LEX 1299) Series, 2, vol. 2.

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24

include ccmments on the various stylistic influences manifested in

the Bagatelles.

The most comprehensive analytical discussions of the musical

language in Cp. 6 are to be found in several writings of Elliott

Antokoletz. The author first addressed the subject in an article

entitled "The Musical Language of Bartok's 14 Bagatelles for


16
Piano," (including analyses of Bagatelles Nos. 4, 1, 9, 8, 10,

and 2) and expanded his discussion to all the Bagatelles in The

Music of Bela Bartok: A Study of Tonality and Progression in

Twentieth-Century Music. Antokoletz has yet another article on the

Bagatelles in press entitled "'At Last Something New': the


17
Fourteen Bagatelles," in which he discusses each movement,

summarizing his ideas in easily accessible terms.

Antokoletz's theories stem fran the assertion that 3artok's

musical style is an amalgamation and synthesis of various trends in

early twentieth-century art music, those same paths being explored

by Schoenberg, Debussy, Stravinsky and others, with elements of

what he discovered to be characteristic of Eastern-European folk

16. Tempo 137 (June 1981) pp. 8-16.


17. The Bartok Companion, ed. Malcolm Gillies, (Faber & Faber,
forthcoming).

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music. Antokoletz pursues the logical progression fran the simplest

elements most closely associated with natural phenomena of peasant

music, such as the use and harmonization of authentic folk melodies

in Bagatelles Nos. £ and 5, to the most abstract and radical

procedures such as tonalities completely divorced from diatonic

principles and based on intervallic relationships around an axis of

symmetry (e.g. Bagatelle No. 2).

In spite of their ground-breaking originality, the Bagatelles

are not without vestiges of what went before. In order to

recognize their historical position, it is important to place them

in the context not only of what followed in their wake, but also of

the stylistic influences that helped to set the scene for their

creation.

Two important aspects of Bartok's early musical development

are germane to a discussion of the Bagatelles. The first is the

lifelong relationship of the canposer to his primary instrument,

the piano. His first recognition cane as a performer, and he is

known to have been one of the finest piano virtuosos of his time.

Many of his piano works were canposed for his own concerts. It is

significant that the first mature manifestations of his evolving

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26

musical style occurred in works for piano, especially the

Bagatelles and companion works such as the Ten Easy Pieces.

Although Bartok certainly became the master of many instrumental

and vocal genres, his compositions for piano consistently held a

central position of importance throughout his compositional career.

The Influence of Nineteenth-Century Music on the Bagatelles

The other aspect of Bartok's early training appropriate to

this discusssion is the composer's exposure at an early age to the

music of the German Romantic tradition. In his own words:

...before I was eighteen I had acquired a fairly

thorough knowledge of music from Bach to Brahms (though

in Wagner's work I did not get further than TannMuser).

All this time I was also busy composing and was under the

strong influence of Brahms and Dohnanyi (who was four


18
years my senior).

18. Essays, p.408.

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27

While a student at the Budapest Academy of Music between 1899

and 1903, he began an eager study of the later works of Wagner and

of Liszt's orchestral works. "I got rid of the Brahmsian style, but

did not succeed via Wagner and Liszt, in finding the new way so
19
ardently desired." Bartok entered a frustrating, uninspired

period of his compositional career, producing no original works

until in 1902 he was "roused as by a lightning stroke" by a

performance of Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra. "At once

I threw myself into the study of all Strauss's scores and began
20
again to write music myself."

Prior to his discovery of folk music in 1904, Bartok's

musical style was forged from a heritage of traditional German

music, Bach to Brahms, Wagner, Liszt and Strauss. These styles,

along with the gypsy idiom conmon in Hungarian popular music of the

time, reveal an easily perceptible influence in Bartok's pre-1908

works. While he made a conscious effort in the Bagatelles to

avoid the "exuberance of the romantic piano music of the nineteenth

century," there are nevertheless undeniable vestiges of the

19. Ibid., d . 409.


20. Ibid.

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composer's stylistic inheritance. Their originality

notwithstanding, the Bagatelles bear the influence of Bartok's

earlier style.

One pervasive element of Bartok's earlier style was

effectively purged from his music of 1908. The popular gypsy

element, on which he had relied for the Hungarian flavor of such

works as his Rhapsody, Op. _1 and the Four Piano Pieces of 1903, is

altogether absent fran the Bagatelles. This device, adopted fran

the gypsy-style works of composers like Liszt and Brahms (Hungarian

Rhapsodies and Hungarian Dances) was no longer useful to Bartok

after he discovered authentic peasant music.

But other traces of German traditions can be detected in Op.

6. The title itself was probably inspired by Beethoven's

collections of Bagatelles. The French term "bagatelle" refers to

something small, trivial or frivolous. Although both Beethoven and

Bartok assigned the title to collections of short pieces, the

somber character of both composers' sets implies an ironic

application of the term. (It is noteworthy that among the numerous

piano editions prepared by Bartok during his first years of

teaching at the Academy were both the Op. 33 and the Op. 119 sets

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29

of Beethoven Bagatelles.) Bagatelles Nos. 13 and 14 were given

titles, "Elle est morte" and "Ma nie qui danse"— this is surely a

romantic gesture. A leitmotif, reminiscent of Wagner and Strauss,

appears not only in the final two Bagatelles, but in other works of

the same time as well, including the Violin Concerto No.l and the

first movement of the Ten Easy Pieces. (See Chapter Four for a full

discussion of the meaning of the titles and the leitmotif.)

Bagatelle No. 14 embodies a tradition reaching back through

Liszt to Berlioz, that of the frenzied, diabolical waltz. The

Viennese waltz tradition was a firmly entrenched element of popular

music, and had been so for more than a century. Its popularity

extended far beyond the Austrian Empire, of which Hungary was a

part. The waltz in the nineteenth century had become an

international musical property, beloved in Paris and London as in

Vienna and Budapest. The waltz was a symbol of grace and

elegance, and its grotesque distortion in the fifth movement of

Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique was all the more effective for its

parody of the universally recognized social ideal. Liszt's Mephisto

Waltzes added to the musical assault on the grand dance, and such

works established the 'valse diabolicue' as a musical metaphor.

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Bartok's waltz parody had autobiographical significance— it

was intended as a satirical reference (see Chapter Four). The

sarcastic quality of the Bagatelle is achieved primarily by a

chromatic distortion of the expected tonic-dominant relationships

in the left-hand waltz pattern, and by a frantically exaggerated

tempo ( Ex. 1).

EX. 1: BAGATELLE NO. 14, MM. 1-7

Presto ^fco.

The waltz is also subtly manifested in Bagatelle No. 12:

the syncopated rhythm of in. 2, m. 6, and other corresponding places,

ccmes fran a standard Viennese waltz pattern ( Ex. 2). This

interpretation of such a rhythm is supported by earlier Bartok

works, such as the 1903 Scherzo from Etaur Piano Pieces (Ex. 3), in

which a similar rhythmic device is presented in a waltz-like

atmosphere. Subtle references to the waltz can also be found in

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31

later Bartok works, such as the fourth movement of his Suite, Op.

14 (1916) for piano. (Ex. 4).

EX. 2: BAGATELLE NO. 12, MM. 1-7

EX. 3: "SCHERZO" FROM FOUR PIANO PIECES, MM. 375-381

rhSTi -c f f f
us
u£LF
i™ *§§n

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These are the influences absorbed by Bartok in his formative

years, the musical vocabulary of his imrrediate musical forbears—

the tradition of German nineteenth-century music. But Bartok broke

with tradition, led out of the mainstream by a series of

discoveries during the years 1904-1907. Two events which were to

exert direct influence on the Bagatelles were his discovery of the

works of Debussy and of peasant folk music.

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33

The Influence of Debussy on the Bagatelles

Zoltan Kodaly first introduced Bartok to the music of Claude

Debussy when he returned from Paris in late 1907 with several works

of the French composer. Intrigued by Debussy's music, especially

"Trois chansons de France", Bartok purchased several more Debussy

works in Budapest, including the String Quartet in October 1907,

and between 1907 and 1911 Pour le Piano, L'isle joyeux, Image

I_ and II, and the first volume of Preludes for piano. Bartok

embraced the music of Debussy, studying it thoroughly, and

performing some of these works on his recitals. In a 1939 interview

Bartok paid homage to Debussy:

Debussy's great service to music was to reawaken among

all musicians an awareness of harmony and its

possibilities. In that he was as important as Beethoven

who revealed to us the meaning of progressive form, and

as Bach who showed us the transcendent significance of •

counterpoint ... Now, what I am always asking myself is

this: is it possible to make a synthesis of these three

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34

great masters, a living synthesis that will be valid for


21
our own time?

In studying the works of Debussy, Bartok was fascinated by

the similarities to what he was discovering in folk music at the

sane time.

I...was greatly surprised to find in [Debussy's] work

'pentatonic phrases' similar in character to those

contained in our peasant music. I was sure these could

be attributed to influences of folk music from Eastern

Europe, very likely from Russia. Similar influences can

be traced in Igor Stravinsky's work. It seems therefore

that, in our age, modern music has developed along

similar lines in countries geographically far away frccn


22
each other.

21. As quoted in Serge Moreux, Bela Bartok, sa vie, ses oeuvres,


son langage (Paris: Richard-Masse, 1949, 1955).
22. Essays, p. "410.

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For the most part, the Bagatelles exhibit a sparse and arid

texture, very different fran the piano style of Debussy. In other

Bartok works of the time, a more apparent emulation of Debussy's

trademark piano style can be observed. In the second Elegy of Op.

9b, written in December 1909, (the same month in which Bartok had

tried unsuccessfully to visit Debussy in Paris!) a pianissimo wash

of rapid arpeggios surrounded by non-melodic fragments is sustained

over nineteen measures, creating an atmosphere of pure color. (Ex.

5a, mm. 27ff.). The passage is followed by massive blocked chords

descending in parallel motion. (Ex. 5b, m. 46). Complete whole-

tcne scales are interspersed with semitone fragments a few bars

later. (Ex. 5b, m. 52).

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EX. 5A: ELEGY, OP. 9B, NO. 2, MM. 25-33

4<

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EX. 5B: ELEGY, OP. 9B, NO. 2, MM. 46-53

Such overt attempts to emulate Debussy's pianistic style are

rare in Bartok, and altogether absent in the Bagatelles. For the

most part the influence of Debussy is to be observed in more

subtle ways. If Bartok admired Debussy, he was also confident in

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his own developing aesthetics and style. Although he experimented

with Debussy's pianistic style in works like the Elegies, more

meaningful was his absorption of impressionistic techniques such as

parallel motion of harmonies and static, non-melodic atmospheric

passages into his personal style. It should be emphasized again

that many of the elements possibly attributable to Debussy's

influence were compatible with what Bartok was arriving at

independently through his study of folk music. Overt Debussian

techniques are not to be found in the Bagatelles, but at least one

movement, Bagatelle No. 12, demonstrates a less flamboyant

Impressionism.

Conceptually No. 12 is probably the most difficult of the

Bagatelles for the interpreter. It is the most impressionistic and

evocative of the set. Yet Bartok left us no hints to its meaning as

he did in the titles of Bagatelles Nos. 13 and 14. The structure,

an arch form A B C B A, lends itself to dramatic description, in

which the opening A section is static and nebulous. It begins with

freely repeated notes which begin slowly and softly, then

accelerate and crescendo as they approach the next downbeat.

Perhaps a cimbalom, a hammer dulcimer indigenous to Eastern

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39

European folk music, is suggested by this figure, but m.2 evokes

the waltz, as described above— an odd juxtaposition of disparate

images. (Ex. 6).

EX. 6: BAGATELLE NO. 12, MM. 1-3

Rubato

This repeated-note figure serves as a structural marker,

introducing the A section at the beginning and end of the movement

as well as the climactic C section. The material of B is at first

wistful, based on scale figures of the first section (see L.H.

m.3). These scale patterns rise and fall like waves at first (Ex.

7, nm. 9-10), but becane increasingly fragmented, their contour

leading only upward and their tempo accelerating as their energy

mounts (Ex. 7, mm. 13-14). These increasingly angular figures

are the first example of Bartok's pantomime technique later used to

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40

express musically the physical movements of the princess or the

wooden puppet in the ballet The Wooden Prince. (See Chapter Four

for a discussion of the relationship of this Bagatelle to The

Wooden Prince.) This passage seons to suggest seme extra-rnusical

movanent, as in a ballet. Their optimistic striving upward is

momentarily rewarded with an arrival, by way of F# and G#, on A,

the highest note of the passage. Then, announced by the repeated-

note figure, the A melts into a pure, unclouded F major harmony,

and a magical, dreamlike realm is reached (Ex. 7, mm. 22-25).

EX. 7: BAGATELLE NO. 12, MM. 8-26

Pooo pihj

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41

(EX.7, cont.)

Poco plu andante

The extraordinary C section, architecturally the apex of the

piece, is thematically and registrally distinct and unrelated to

any other material. It has the quality of a direct reference or

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42

quotation, although to the knowledge of this writer no specific

source has been traced. This central passage reflects

characteristic Debussian techniques with its veiled, sustained

damper pedal effects and parallel 9th chords.

After this structural and dramatic hig'npoint, the movement

descends again through the second pantomime section, the fragmented

figures now leading heavily downward to an arrival on the same tone

A as before. Because of the descending motion by which it is

reached, hcwever, the meaning of this arrival note is far more

pessimistic than before (Ex. 8). The movement ends, having striven

to rise, glimpsing for one sustained mcment the ideal, the beloved,

but failing to grasp it, descending once again into despair (Ex.

9).

EX.- 8: BAGATELLE NO. 12, MM. 29-31

ttn'lta

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EX. 9: BAGATELLE NO. 12, MM. 41-44

Parallels have been drawn between Debussy's use of quartal

harmony in, for instance, Pour le Piano and Bartok's obvious


23
fondness for such harmonies, which are evident in several of the

Bagatelles. Major portions of Bagatelle 11 are based almost

exclusively on chords built of fourths (Ex. 10).

EX. 10: BAGATELLE NO. 11, MM. 1-8


Allegretto molto rubato

Perhaps Bartok's study of folk music should be credited as his

primary source in this instance, however, and similarities between

23. Somfai, Hungaroton, pp. 8-9.

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44

his and Debussy's style may be explained as independent arrivals

at the same conclusion. Bartok mentioned the frequent occurrence of

the interval of a fourth in the Hungarian folk tunes he encountered,

and described its implications in the new harmonic vocabulary:

The frequent repetition of this remarkable skip

occasioned the construction of the simplest fourth-chord

(which was filled in to be ccmpleted as a consonant


24
chord) and its inversions...

Bartok publicly declared his admiration for the innovations

of Debussy, and attested to the importance of his encounter with

these works at a crucial point in his stylistic evolution. Yet

Debussy's influence is probably best described as a spiritual

kinship, a source of musical camaraderie— Bartok was fascinated

to observe another great creative figure moving in similar

directions. In spite of the absorption of sane elements of

Debussy's style, Bartok's musical character ultimately progressed

in a different direction. This resulted in a personal musical

24. Essays, p. 336

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45

utterance quite independent frctn that of the French canposer.

Bartok's stylistic development since 1908 is more essentially

relevant to the influence of folk music.

The Influence of Folk Music on the Bagatelles

It is generally agreed that the folk music studied by Bartok

prior to 1908 served as a primary inspiration for the innovations

achieved in the Bagatelles, as Bartok himself repeatedly asserted

in his writings. This influence is manifested on multiple levels,

from the overt use of actual folk melodies to applications of

observed musical phenomena extracted frcm folk music and applied

abstractly to pieces that no longer bear an obvious resemblance to

the original sources. The Hungarian sources represent one of the

central issues of this treatise— their proper rendering is

essential to an authentic interpretation while at the sane time

often elusive to Western performers. This subject area will

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46

therefore be allotted a chapter of its own; the reader is referred

to Chapter Three, wherein the challenge of appropriately

interpolating Hungarian elements into a performance style will be

investigated in greater depth.

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Contemporary Musical Trends in the Bagatelles

Bartok referred to Bagatelles No. 1, 8, 9, 11, and 13 as


25
"experiments," a carment in which he acknowledged delving into

areas not previously exploited. "Experiment" should not be

construed to imply, however, that his musical ideas were immature

or incompletely conceived. It is their originality which sets them

apart, not only frcm what had occurred previously, but also frcm

what was taking place in the development of his contemporaries.

Because of references to the importance of Arnold Schoenberg

in a 1920 article by Bartok entitled "The Problem of the New


26
Music," it was erroneously asserted by Emil Haraszti that "the

speculative German Rationalism of the Bagatelles" was influenced by

25. Edwin von der Nflll, Bela Bartok. Bin Beitrag zur Morphologie
der Neuen Musik (Halle: Mitteldeutsche Verlags A.G., 1930)
26. Essays, p. 455.

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27
Schoenberg. Certain coincidental similarities do exist between

the Bagatelles and Schoenberg's Op. 11, but, as pointed out by

subsequent scholars, Bartok did not became acquainted with

Schoenberg's work until 1912, after the composition of the

Bagatelles. There is perhaps more evidence supporting an early

influence of Bartok on the Viennese composer. Schoenberg's earliest

reference to Bartok's music occurs in 1911 in the first edition of


28
the Harmonielehre, where Bagatelle No. 10 is cited as an example

near the end of the last chapter. This would indicate that

Schoenberg became interested in Bartok's work even before Bartok

had came into contact with that of Schoenberg's. There seems to be

no firm evidence in the form of correspondence or primary account,

but a possible connection can be seen in the person of Busoni, who

had hosted Bartok's premiere performance of the Bagatelles in his

Viennese studio class in May 1908. Busoni had taken a keen interest

in the Bagatelles in 1908, penning letters of support to his

27. Bela Bartok, His Life and Works (Paris: Lyrebird Press,
1938).
28. P. 469.

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49

publishers. During Schoenberg's preparations of the Hamonielehre,

Buscni was a cordial and respected acquaintance, and had expressed

enthusiasm for Schoenberg's works, especially Op. 11 (that sane

work already associated, if falsely, with the Bagatelles.) Perhaps

Schoenberg's attention was drawn to Bartok's Op. 6 by Busoni.

Schoenberg founded the Verein fur Musikalische

Privatauff(ihrungen (Society for Private Musical Performances) in

November of 1918, which provided performances of contemporary music

in Vienna until 1920-1921. The Bagatelles were featured

frequently on these concerts, including three performances during

the first season alone (February 9 and 16, and June 6). Schoenberg

himself coached the preparations of these performances, a duty he

often delegated to other Vortragsmeister (head musical coaches)

such as Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Erwin Stein, and Benno Sachs.
29
According to composer Paul Pisk, the first Secretary of the

Verein, the most important works were invariably under the direct

29. In correspondence between Pisk and Elliott Antokoletz.

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50

supervision of Schoenberg himself, and were performed more than

once. Schoenberg was not vocal about his admiration for Bartok (or

for most other composers), according to Pisk, but the manner in

which he featured the Bagatelles indicates that he did indeed

admire than and consider than important.

In his preface to the proposed 1945 edition, included in Bela

Bartok Essays, Bartok listed a catalogue of keys for several of the

Bagatelles:

No. 2: D flat major; No. 6: B major; No. 7: D sharp

minor; No. 8: G minor; No. 9: E flat major; No. 10: C


30
major; No. 12: B minor; No. 13: E flat minor.

His use of the qualifiers "major" and "minor" is troubling here; it

is in these very pieces that Bartok was working out new and

radically different ways of approaching tonality. The Bagatelles

embody numerous alternatives to major and minor tonal procedures,

the very point being to avoid the traditional approach to tonal

30. P. 433.

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51

establishment. Why then would Bartok explicitly describe these

pieces as "major" and "minor" when he campaigned at length in his

writings to describe his avoidance of these very principles?

Curiously the handwritten draft of this introduction contains a

slightly different version:

In order to avoid misunderstandings concerning the

tonality of seme of the pieces, the following statements

are added: 2nd bagatel (sic): D flat; 6th: B; 7th: D

sharp minor; 8th g minor; 9th E flat; 10th: C major;


31
12th: B minor; 13th E flat minor.

The handwritten manuscript has fewer major-minor

designations. The version quoted in the Essays is probably taken

from the typewritten page, signed by Bartok, in the private

collection of the composer's son Peter. Perhaps Bartok, in the

last year of his life, was anxious to have the edition completed,

so he signed the draft without correction. Could he have mellowed

31. In the Bartok Archive at Homosassa, formerly the New York


Bartok Archive.

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52

in his old age, recanting sane of the radical fervor of his fiery

youth? Perhaps the major and minor designations were made lightly,

or were an exaggerated reaction to misinterpretation— in closing

the above passage he stated that "this information is addressed

especially to those who like to pigeonhole all music they do not

understand into the category of 'atonal' music." In any case, it is

difficult to accept the composer's assertion that the tonality of

these pieces is to be so tidily explained, especially because in

written descriptions of other works he confined himself to defining

tonal centers only, e.g. "in A". (See Essays 55 and 56). Referring

in an autobiography to his first studies of folk music, he stated:

It was decisively important for me to study all this

peasant music because it showed me how to be completely

independent of the universally prevailing major and minor


32
scale system.

32. Jozsef Ujfalussy, Bela Bartok. Kis zenei Kflyvtar (Budapest


Gondolat, 1965, rev. 1970 and 1976). English translation by
Ruth Pataki, rev. Elisabeth West as Bela Bartok (Budapest:
Corvina; Boston: Crescendo, 1971) p. 60.

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


53

In order to understand this seeming contradiction one has to

take into account the audiences to whom he was addressing his

comments. Bartok did not say what he did not mean, nor did he

completely change his mind. But in his references to the

tonalities of the Bagatelles he simply picked out obvious features

of the tonal makeup, local instances of harmonies occurring at

important structural points. The labels refer to momentary

occurrences of implied major or minor harmonies, regardless of the

fact that the rest of the piece is completely free of functional

major or minor processes, or to the so-called "major" (Lydian,

Mixolydian) or "minor" (Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian) folk modes.

Thus, Bagatelle No. 2, which features symmetrical expansions around

a tonal center and does emphasize a pervasive D-flat major-

supporting major 6th scale degree (Bb), is labeled "D-flat major"

because of the final implied D-flat major harmony. Bagatelle No. 8,

constructed of intervallic cells and completely free of any vestige

of functional harmony, is identified as g-minor because of the

final local occurrence of a g-minor segment.

Bagatelle No. _1 is probably the first example of deliberate

polytonal notation— the treble clef is notated in four sharps, the

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54

bass clef in 4 flats. Although this piece was used as an example of

polvtonality in the Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Bartok

claimed that this notation was a

half-serious, half-jesting procedure... used to

demonstrate the absurdity of key signatures in certain

kinds of contemporary music. After carrying the key

signature principle ad absurdum in the first piece, I

dropped its use in all the other Bagatelles and in most

of my following works as well. The tonality of the

first Bagatelle is, of course, not a mixture of C sharp

minor and f minor but simply a Phrygian colored C

major. In spite of this it was quoted several tines as

an early example of bi-tonality. The same fate befell

Sketch No. 2 about the sane time, although its tonality


33
is indisputably a pure C major.

33..Essays, pp. 432-433.

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55

Bartok held strong views on polytonality— he believed the

perception of two keys simultaneously was an impossiblity.

...polytonality exists only for the eye when one deals

with so-called polytonal music. But our mental

hearing...will select one key as a fundamental key, and

will project the tones of the other keys in relation to

the one selected. The parts in different keys will be

interpreted as consisting of altered tones of the chosen


34
key.

The Bagatelles contain a veritable catalogue of the new

techniques, which were elemental to his evolution and remained

central to his style until the end. In Bagatelles Nos. 10 and 11

he featured chords built of fourths. Bagatelles Nos. ]_ and £S use

chords built of other ncn-tertian intervallie combinations, i.e.

quartal harmonies and intervallic cells. Relationships around an

34. Ibid., pp. 365-366.

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56

axis of symmetry establish tonality in Nos. 2, 2 and 13.

Symmetrical considerations are also evident in the reordering of

diatonic (modal) collections into symmetrical cycles of intervals,

e.g. No^ 10. Variety of approach and technique is the hallmark of

the Bagatelles; what unifies the set is the collective avoidance of

principles of traditional major-minor functional harmony.

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CHAPTER THREE

FOLK ELEMENTS IN THE BAGATET.T.FS

Inspired largely by Bartok's first years of folk music

research, the Bagatelles are richly infused with elements frcm that

Eastern European musical tradition. Because of our remote cultural

heritage, pianists in the West cannot expect to happen upon

stylistic awareness haphazardly; we must approach Bartok's music

armed with knowledge and understanding. Nowhere is that

understanding more vital than in the area of folk influences.

Bartok's first folksong-collecting excursions into the

countryside were in pursuit of Hungarian melodies. He laboriously

carried a bulky recording device which used Edison wax cylinders.

To rural folk, this man frcm Budapest with his sophisticated manner

of dress and speech must have seemed strange, as he enticed and

57

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58

cajoled them into singing their native songs. He humorously

described a frustrating encounter with a peasant woman in a letter

during a journey in August 1907:

A dialogue in Gyergyo-Kilenyfalva [A Hungarian

village}

The traveller: (entering) God bless you!

The peasant woman: Jesus keep you!

T: Is your husband at home?

W: He's not at hone; he's taken the waggon (sic) to bring

hay from the field.

T: And how are you faring, I wonder?

W: Oh, we get along scmehow, though we have our troubles,

too: We have work, and plenty of it.

T: Well, well, you can cope with it scmehow.

W: And what does the gentleman want? (To her little girl)

Bring a chair for the gentleman!— Here's a chair, sit

ye down. (To her daughter) Get the pigs in!

T: Now look here. I've come to ask you for something

which, I think, you've never been asked for before.

W: ?

T: I've heard frcm your neighbour that you know all kinds

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59

of ancient folk-songs which you learnt frcm the old

folks when you were a girl.

W: Me?! old songs?! You shouldn't poke fun at me, Sir.

Old songs!

T: Believe me, I 'in not poking fun at you! I

mean what I say! That's why I've made this long, long

journey all the way frcm Budapest, specially to look

for these very old songs which no one remembers

except here!

W: And what are you going to do with those songs? Do you

want to print them?

T: No indeed! What we want is to preserve the songs by

writing them down. For if we don't write them down,

then in years to come no one will know the songs that

are being sung here now. You see, even now, the young

people sing quite different songs; they don't care

for the old ones and don't even learn them; and yet

they are much prettier than the new ones, aren't

they?! In 50 years no one will have heard of them if

we don't write them down now.

W: Really? (Pause) Hrrnm. Hahaha. No, I can't believe it.

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60

T: (Desperate) But look here, mother, at this little

book. Do you see, I have written them all down. (He

whistles a song) That was sung by the wife of Andrew

Gigtt (he whistles another) and Balint Kosza's wife

sang that one. Now! you know them, too, don't you?

W: Eh! my singing-days are past. What would an old woman

be doing to sing such secular songs! I only knew

sacred songs new.

T: Come, you're not as old as all that. And the others,

Stephen Csata's wife and Ignatius Hunyadi's wife, both

told me that you know a great many.

W: Eh! my voice is not what it was...

T: (Chimes in) You don't need a strong voice; if you hum

it faintly, that will be all right.

W: Why don't you ask the young men and girls, they knew

plenty of songs.

T: No! they only knew new songs; and I don't need those

because I've already got them all. In these parts

there are such sad songs like this (whistling): [Here

Bartok notated a bit of a tune] You know it? What are

the words?

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


61

W: Long ago I heard that song, but I did not learn the

words.

T: Don't you know any others like it?

W: I could think of one or two; but they don't come into

one's mind very readily. When I want them, I can't

remember a single one. Aye! There was a time when I

knew a great many. But hard work is the devil, it


35
takes the joy out of singing. When I was a girl...

(Bartok's account of this exasperating attempt to extract a

folksong continues. Evidently he never succeeded with this

particular woman.)

While in Budapest between folksong-collecting trips, Bartok

transcribed what he had recorded in fastidious detail, notating the

finest variations in pitch and ornamentation (Ex. 11).

35. Demenyi, pp. 70-74.

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62

EX. 11: FOLKSONG TRANSCRIPTION IN BARTON'S HAND (frcm


Piano Music of Bela Bartok, p. xi)

As his collection grew, he began to categorize the melodies

according to a system developed by Ilmari Krohn, a prominent

Finnish folklorist. Certain consistent characteristics of the

folksongs became evident, and Bartok eventually published his

findings in his ethnomusicological volume The Hungarian Folk


36
Song. Three main categories of Hungarian tunes were established:

old-style, new-style and mixed-style melodies. Those designated

"old-style" were found to be the purest and most ancient examples

of Hungarian folk music, that is, uninfluenced by neighboring or

later styles. New-style melodies exhibited influences of more

36. Benjamin Suchoff, ed., translated by M. D. Calvocoressi


(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981).

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63

recent developments with Western infusion, but were nevertheless

considered to be of completely Hungarian origin. Mixed-style songs

constituted a miscellaneous class in which Bartok placed songs not

conforming to the previous two, among them tunes which showed

characteristics of the music of neighboring peoples, such as the


37
Slovaks or Rumanians.

Bagatelle No. 4 uses an authentic old-style Hungarian folk

melody. Such folk tunes are typically constructed of four phrases

of equal length, the oldest types of eight syllables per phrase.

The form is always non-architectonic (non-rounded). These melodies

have a strong pentatonic basis, a type of five-note scale

represented by the minor-modal form of the black keys of the piano,

that is E-flat, G-flat, A-flat, B-flat, D-flat. (After the fashion

of Krohn, Bartok transcribed all melodies ending on a G tonic, i.e.

G-B-flat-C-D-F). The melody of Bagatelle No. £ fits all the

requirements of an old-style melody: it has four equal phrases of

eight syllables each, and the four-phrase structure can be

described as AABC, a non-rounded form (Ex. 12). Its melody is

37. Bartok later modified these classifications somewhat; these are


the categories to which he adhered in The Hungarian Folk Song.

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64

strongly pentatonic, the only additions to the pentatonic mode

being rhythmically subordinate: the E-flat at the end of measures 1

and 3 is not a member of the pentatonic collection.

EX. 12: SOURCE f'ELODY OF BAGATELLE NO. 4 (from


The Hungarian Folk Song, tune 7a.)

it

In Bartok's setting of this melody the harmony is derived

from the vertical projection of elements frctn the melody, e.g. the

minor 7th harmony is derived from the pentatonically based melodic

structure (see Antokoletz, pp.28-9). This extreme economy of means

presents a challenge to the interpreter in its stark simplicity.

The key to understanding this piece lies in the text and the

traditional folk performance style.

The text in English translation reads:

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65

I was a cowherd,

I slept by my cows;

I awoke in the night

Not one beast was in its stall.

Seen frcm the point of view of the singer, the situation

depicted by the text is grim. The cowherd lost his herd, his

entire livelihood. If the herd was his property, it probably

represented everything he owned. If he was employed to care for

the herd of another, he has also earned the wrath of his master.

Bartok's setting in Bagatelle No. 4 is somber and slow. It was

characteristic of the composer to consider the mood of the text in

his setting, and the text in turn can supply insight in

understanding the mood of the music.

In addition to recognizing the serious nature of the text,

the performer must deal with the question of rubato, or freedom

with the rhythm. Rubato is an important feature of the old style.

Bartok believed that

...the earliest music arose in connexion (sic) with

rhythmical motions of the human body (work, dancing). No

complicated rhythmic pattern could evolve out of these

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66

primitive elements....In proportion as tunes gradually

became independent of the body's motions, the dance-like

rigour of the original terse rhythm relaxed. The rhythm

of the tunes was then bound to adapt itself to the rhythm

of the words; and performers were enabled to emphasize


38
and prolong single notes.

In other words, the most ancient of the old-style melodies were

originally performed in a regular rhythm, referred to by Bartok as

"tempo giusto." As words were added, the natural inflections of

the language and expressive inflections of the meaning of the text

caused the rhythm to become more plastic and supple, resulting in

the "parlando rubato" style. Although the melody of Bagatelle No.

4 is designated "tempo giusto" in the Hungarian Folk Song, the

mournful text and slow tempo (the quarter note=45) belie any dance­

like character. Rather, the expressive dimension is the primary

one, and can only be rendered with a free use of rubato. It is

38. The Hungarian Folk Song, p. 9.

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67

interesting that melody 7b, a different tune to the same text, is


39
indeed a parlando rubato tune.

The type of rubato required in this style must not be

confused with the subjective rubato of nineteenth-century

Romanticism (although Bartok's immersion in that tradition could

itself support the notion that he used rubato even when not

expressly indicated in the score). Romantic-style rubato occurs

when harmonic and melodic tensions spark inner emotional responses,

resulting in a need for the performer to stretch the moment and

maximize the expressive impact. This personal emotional response of

the performer results in an expressive bending and shaping of

rhythm. The parlando rubato of Hungarian folk style, however, is

an objective rhythmic style, dependent on the natural rhythm of the

Hungarian language. Expression of the text's meaning should also be

considered, to be sure, but the plasticity of the rhythm is

primarily based on the emphases inherent in the natural utterance

39. This writer broached the question of rubato in Bagatelle No. 4


to Laszlo Somfai and pianists Zoltan Kocsis and Imre Rohmann
during the 1987 International Bartok Seminar and Festival in
Szombathely, Hungary. These Hungarian experts concurred that the
natural expressiveness of the melody called for a free rhythmic
treatment.

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68

of the Hungarian words, as the term "parlando rubato" implies—

rhythmic freedom according to the impulses of natural speech.

Must a pianist learn to speak Hungarian to perform Bagatelle

No. _4 authentically? We must hope not, otherwise few Western

pianists could claim any right whatsoever to Bartok's music.

But an effort to learn something of the pronunciation of these or

other texts could greatly enhance the subtlety of rubato. Basic

rules of pronunciation, such as the fact that Hungarian words are

accented on the first syllable, should be considered. The rhythm

does not so much need to match the inflections of any particular

text, as to capture an essential storytelling, or "parlando" style.

The original transcription of the folk melody, that is, as

notated by Bartok.from a folk performance before he composed this

setting, can lend further insight into the rubato style. The

original tune was slightly ornamented. Bartok excluded all

ornaments in his setting, using only the essential melodic tones.

But if we, as interpreters, are aware of where and how the melody

was originally ornamented, we can use that knowledge in the subtle

placement of the melodic notes to pace the rubato. An ornament on a

note implies, for instance, a slight lengthening or delaying of

that note— an agogic accent.

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


69

Bartok began collecting Slovakian tunes in the fall of 1906,

shortly after his first Hungarian folk song expedition. In

addition to Hungarian and Slovakian tunes, his research eventually

led him to investigate folk tunes from Rumania, Ruthenia (a part of

the Ukraine), northern Africa, Bulgaria, Turkey and Yugoslavia.

The melody used in Bagatelle No. 5_ is an authentic Slovakian folk

tune. As in the case of Bagatelle No. 4, the text and original

melody have much to contribute to an authentic interpretation,

although for different reasons. In comparing the original

transcription with the Bagatelle setting, discrepancies in the

rhythm and phrase structure are inmediately apparent. The rhythm of

measures 1 and 4 appear in' the original melody as eighth-eighth-

quarter; in the Bagatelle setting as quarter-eighth-eighth. The

rest of the melody shares fundamental structural tones, but

rhythmically and melodically the versions are even mare dissimilar

than the first two phrases.

The explanation lies in Bartok' s ethnomusicological work

The Slovakian Folk Song, Vol. II, where this melody appears as tune
40
No. 602a. Underneath the transcription of the melody Bartok

40. This information was made available through the generosity of


Dr. Suchoff; Slovak Folk Music is out of print and unavailable.

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listed as a variant form the rhythmic and melodic differences of

the tune used in Bagatelle No. 5 (Ex. 13).

EX. 13: SOURCE MELODY OF BAGATELLE NO. 5

6.6+6,6, 6+6, IP [T] i4j


B. F. 1051 a); Grlica, Gcmerslcii; V IIM 9 06 ; Zuzana Dribovi, 17 r.

vs*., i n j n\sm\m u n\m u iu m i

In choosing this version of the tune, Bartok opted for the

more regular, straightforward dance rhythm. While the rhythm of the

second half of the transcription is irregular, the variant remains

squarely in duple meter. Bartok's setting, a lively dance

accompanied by a repeated seventh-chord ostinato, reflects this

regularity of meter. The two halves of Bartok's chosen version

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71

remain rhythmically parallel, in contrast to the original. The

phrase structure is apparently rearranged between the two

versions— because of the placement of the longer (quarter) notes,

the phrases of the original, as dictated by the words, fall into a

2+2+3-measure pattern. There are no alternate words given by

Bartok for the variant, but the original tune's text does not fit

naturally into the rhythm of the variant. (A tune was deemed a

variant only through musical relationships; it did not necessarily

share text.) In Bartok's setting the phrases seam to fall into a

3+4 measure pattern. Both are authentic, but the latter, with its

longer phrases, evidently better suited the dance-like character of

Bartok's Bagatelle setting.

The first line of the text (and this is likely to be true of

any texts set to this melody) begins with an introductory

exclamation "ej!" Bartok's technique of extending this first note

is a stylization of a phenomenon found in folk music, where a

signal note, an attention-getting device, introduces each strophe.

This is a type of parlando rubato in which the duration of this

signal note is expanded in subsequent occurrences (Ex. 14). Such

phenomena were found by Bartok to occur in folk music, for

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72

41
instance, in Rumanian alphorn signals that he collected. The

stylization of this folk phenomenon was used by Bartok in his

compositions on more than one occasion, such as in the finales of

the First Piano Concerto and the Concerto for Orchestra. His

application of such a technique in the Bagatelle No. 5^ is very

likely the earliest such appearance.

EX. 14: "LONG NOTE" PHENOMENON AT THE BEGINNING OF EACH


STROPHE OF BAGATELLE NO. 5

Strophe 1 (mm.

Strophe 3 (mm. 51-562

41. See Somfai, "Theme With 'Long Notes,'" from "Analytical Notes
on Bartok's Piano Year of 1926," Studia Musicologica 26 (1984)
pp. 37-40.

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73

Another aspect of folk music particularly relevant to the

Bagatelles is Bartok's frequent use of a recognizable Magyar

(Hungarian) rhythm. Although only Bagatelles Nos. 4_ and 5 are based

on actual folk tunes, this Magyar rhythm reveals in several of the

more abstract pieces in the set a strong folk influence. According

to Somfai, there often occurs in Bartok's works "a characteristic

and emphatically 'Hungarian" culmination point located in the


42
penultimate form-section of a movement...." This Hungarian

element is the Magyar rhythm, characteristically a dotted-note or

syncopated formula. It was the characteristic rhythm of

nineteenth-century Hungarian music, as used, for instance, in

Hungarian Rhapsodies of Liszt.

Bartok, however, pointed out a class of dotted-rhythm tunes

among the new-style Hungarian folk songs as well as Slovakian and

Rumanian, and it is from the folk sources, not from nineteenth-

century gypsy-style music that he took this feature. The dotted

Magyar rhythm.can occur in several forms, exemplified in Ex. 15.

42. "A Characteristic Culmination Point in Bartok's Instrumental


Forms," International Musicological Conference in Commemoration of
Bela Bartok 1971, ed. Jozsef Ujfalussy and Janos Breuer. (Budapest:
Editio Musica; Melville, New York: Belwin Mills, 1972) p. 54.

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74

EX. 15: VARIOUS FORMS OF THE MAGYAR RHYTHM

A: BAGATELLE NO. 10, MM. 1-4


Allegro <Ui

B: BAGATELLE NO. 9, MM. 13-14

- ft\

f Vc.lnt. ^

C: BAGATELLE NO. 8, MM. 20-22

agitato

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75

D: BAGATELLE NO. 7, IM. 97-104

At these culmination points the presence of an almost

stereotypical "Hungarian" dotted rhythm, or the approach towards a

"short-long" [Lcmbardic] rhythmic cadence, in general, is one of

the most essential factors in creating a profoundly Hungarian

character. The Magyar rhythm in Bartok's works is usually

accompanied by a simplification of texture— either a thinning of

voices from a denser texture, or a change to traditional triadic

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76

harmony in contrast to surrounding material of a more abstract

nature.

According to Somfai, the passages exhibiting this phenomenon

tend to conform to two significant tendencies:

(1) These emphatically Hungarian bars in the

culmination point— although thematically related to the

foregoing material of the movement— here, to a certain

extent, appear unexpectedly and without preparation, at

some points even impeding the regular growth of the form,

and definitely endeavouring to create sensual effect.

(2) The work, the movement never canes to an end with

these pathetic bars. Bartok, in a deliberate

"alienation",...adds thematic material already used, or a

coda, but in any case, with a neutralizing effect....Even

if they are brief and terse, there is something in these

Bartok culmination points that is reminiscent of the

Verkiarung pathos of late-rcmantic music. It is precisely

in order to counterbalance this that Bartok ends with


43
the so-called "alienating" bars.

43. Ibid.

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77

Although Somfai refers only to other Bartok works in his

discussion, this phenomenon is highly characteristic of the

Bagatelles. The sudden intrusion of the Magyar rhythm creates a

dranatic, usually climactic sensual effect, after which the

movement is closed with either a return of earlier thematic

material or with a "neutralizing" coda. A more objective character

returns to balance the passionate outburst, sometimes containing

vestiges of the Magyar rhythm as a subtle reminder of the climactic

passage. Although not present in every movement, the Magyar rhythm

appears so frequently and in such significant roles that it can be

seen as one of the primary unifying features of the entire opus.

In the ABA form of Bagatelle No. 11 some very new (for 1908)

and abstract (non-folk-related) musical ideas are contrasted with

more traditional materials using the Magyar rhythm. The opening A

section features chords built of fourths (Ex. 16). This quartal-

chord section has a tipsy, unstable, somewhat comical character,

and demonstrates a type of writing which appears a number of tines

in Bartok's compositions, such as in the second of Three

Burlesques, Op. 8c, which is actually entitled "Slightly Tipsy"

(Ex. 17).

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EX. 17: "SLIGHTLY TIPSY" FROM THREE BURLESQUES, OP. 8C,
MM. 1-2
A llrjjivlto J . iu 4- i m _ _ _

The middle section of Bagatelle No. 11 becorres suddenly much

more serious, a dotted-rhythm melody harmonized by triads—

abstract materials become more traditional, lhe tension increases

through the B section, culminating in a telescoping of the melodic

rhythm to the essential Magyar rhythmic element: eighth note—

dotted-quarter note. The climactic point is reached and sustained by

fermata, after which the tension is released, or "neutralized" with

the return of the fourth chords of the A section (Ex. 18).

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EX. 18: BAGATELLE NO. 11, MM. 55-61

Bagatelle No. 1^ features contrasts of all kinds. It is

notated bitonally, as discussed in the previous chapter, with the

part for each hand written in a different key. The parts of the two

hands proceed in a highly contrasting counterpoint of note values

(RH: 3 quarter notes— whole note; LH: 4 eighth notes— quarter

note), of melodic contour (RH ascends, LH descends), of pianistic

touch (RH------ , L H ------ ) and of dynamic level (RH: mf, LH: p-

pp). This stratification of contrasting elements lends a cool,

impersonal mood to this material. The texture converges, and the

atmosphere becomes contrastingly more vibrant, in a solo passage in

Magyar rhythm. The two contrasting forces unite again in the

second half of the piece, mm. 12-14, where the climax occurs, this

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time with both hands in a unison passage of Magyar rhythm (Ex. 19,

mm. 12-14). After the musical climax the neutralizing cool,

objective material returns, although colored by remnants of the

Magyar rhythm. The "Hungarian" bars serve as a symbol of the

convergence of conflicting forces, as a Romantic expressive

element. The dramaturgy sesns to be concerned with conflicting

elements which attempt, unsuccessfully in the end, to be

reconciled.

Bagatelle No. 7 is another example of the use of the Magyar

rhythm as an expressive tool at the point of culmination. Except

for the fanfare introduction, the material of this Bagatelle is

entirely free of obvious folk references. The mood is capricious

and lighthearted, much like Bagatelle No. 11, until the last part

of the movement, where the music reaches a fiery climax,

culminating in the unexpected arrival of a single voice in Magyar

rhythm (Ex. 20, rrm. 103-106.) This moment is sustained, then

followed by a completely unrelated, neutralizing coda.

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81

EX. 19: BAGATELLE NO. 1

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82

EX. 20: BAGATELLE NO. 7, MM. 78-118

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This discussion of the Magyar rhythm is essential to the

interpretation of the Bagatelles because of its dramatic

implications. Personally, politically, and musically Bartok was a

committed nationalist. The oppression of various regimes and the

changing of surrounding borders were sources of grief and concern

throughout his life, ultimately resulting in his emigration to the

United States. As he had written to his mother several years

before the composition of the Bagatelles;

Everyone, on reaching maturity, has to set himself a

goal and must direct all his work and actions towards

this. For my own part, all my life, in every sphere,

always and in every way, I shall have one objective: The


44
good of Hungary and the Hungarian nation.

The Magyar rhythm represents his most ardent yearnings, the

Rcmantic and dramatic in Bartok, and serves as the antithesis of

the radical, objective, experimental, cerebral Bartok of the

Fourteen Bagatelles.

44. Demenyi, p. 29.

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Of ail the Bagatelles, No. 10 demonstrates the most canplex

synthesis of all the elements of Bartok's mature personal style.

Here, for the first time in his works, the primitivistic piano

style that became a hallmark of his most important piano works

appears. It was not until Allegro Barbaro (1911) that Bartok's

unorthodox approach to piano writing was established in the annals

of music history— inviting the ire and awe of the confused musical

public. Most of Bartok's piano works after Allegro Barbaro employ

this primitivistic technical style to a greater or lesser extent,

but one could cite the Piano Sonata and Piano Concerto No. _1 of

1926 and the Piano Concerto No. 2 as particularly significant

examples.

This primitivism in Bartok's piano writing represents the

most sophisticated absorption of folk elements in the Bagatelles.

There is no direct use of authentic folk materials, i.e. no

quotations of folk tunes, nor does Bartok employ any original

material in direct imitation of folk melodies or rhythms. The folk

element is far more subtly perceptible (although the relentless,

motoric drive of the piece is anything but subtle!) as a pervasive

rustic quality which arises frcm the driving rhythm and the clean,

angular texture. The incessant ostinati lend the piece an

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85

irresistible manentum, and the long fortissimo approach to the

final climactic point a barbaric power.

This unique piano style arose fran the composer's unorthodox

perception of the instrument itself. He wrote that "its inherent

nature becomes really expressive only by means of the present


45
tendency to use the piano as a percussion instrument." His

meaning, often misconstrued by pianists, was that the technical

nature of the instrument was such that its natural tone and

expression could best be realized when the composer is oriented

toward varieties of touch— striking the keys. In other words, to

compose idiomatically for the instrument one must think in terms of

the way sound is produced, not in terms such as legato and

cantabile, concepts more idiomatic to string and wind instruments.

Bartok did NOT mean that his music should be played with a jarring,

harsh, strident quality. This is a major misconception of pianists

today. One need only listen to the recordings of Bartok playing

his own music to realize that he never played with a harsh tone.

"Percussive" playing has a negative connotation to us today. But

45. Essays, p. 288.

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Bartok was speaking in purely technical, not qualitative, terms,

referring objectively to the mechanism of the instrument itself,

not to the quality of tone produced by the performer.

Mention must be made of the pervasive influence of folk music

on the harmonic/melodic dimension of the Bagatelles. Bartok

gradually absorbed harmonic, melodic, formal, and rhythmic elements

from his studies of folk music into his musical language. In the

Bagatelles the various elements are still juxtaposed, i.e.

contrasting influences (e.g. fran Debussy, folk music,) are

presented side by side, but the beginnings of a true synthesis can

also be observed, for example, in Bagatelle No. 10, discussed

above. The manner in which Bartok extracted materials frcm folk and

other sources and fused them together into his personal musical

harironic language is explored in depth in the writings of

Antokoletz.

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CHAPTER FOUR

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ELEMENTS OF THE BAGATELLES

The composition of the Fourteen Bagatelles was a result, not

only of Bartok's new musical incentives— the investigation of folk

music and new directions in art music— but also of events in his

personal life. Cp. 6 occupies a central position in a group of

works related to a period of great crisis for the composer, a tine

when he seriously faced fundamental personal, political and

ideological dilemmas. Bartok's musical output during this period

reflects the contemplation and resolution of these grave inner

conflicts. The manifestations of these personal currents are

fundamental to the meaning and purpose of the works of the tirre,

because they illustrate Bartok's process of encountering and

87

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working through these years of crisis.

The years 1906-1907 represented a time of important changes

in every phase of Bartok's life. For many years he had experienced

an increasingly acute awareness of a need for a new musical outlet.

When he found that outlet in his discovery of Hungarian peasant

music, he was keenly cognizant of its import in his music and the

future of Hungarian art music. At the same time he began to ponder

the fundamental questions of the creative artist, of his isolation

from society, his inability to live and work in harmony with

himself and the rest of the world. He wished to pursue his calling,

to study folk music and compose, yet he faced the inevitable

necessity of needing to earn a living to support these endeavors,

which therefore diverted time and energy to other pursuits. He

accepted an appointment to succeed his teacher Thctnan as Professor

of Piano at the Budapest Academy, but the decision was made with

feelings of reluctance— he expressed to his friends his doubts

about the appointment and his indifference toward teaching of the


46
time.

46. This in spite of the fact that many students attested to the
excellence of his teaching. His career as a pedagogue is
significant, especially as regards the original piano works
composed as teaching materials.

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Bartok's devotion to the collection of folk music contributed

to his soul searching. The time spent in the country amona the
47
peasants, which he referred to as "the happiest days of my life,"

gave substance to the nationalistic attitudes he had assumed since

his student days. The better he came to know the conditions of

peasant life, the more critical he became of upper-class tastes and

sensibilities, and from this evolved his conviction that the true

national identity was to be found among the folk. He felt

comfortable and at home only in the country— he cultivated peasant

friends and even stayed in their hates. The city came to be a

desolate wasteland, where he was destined to be alone among the

crowds and concrete.

Bartok rejected Christianity with a similar fervor during

this period, railing against the fundamental concepts of the Church

and proclaiming himself an athiest, that "the Bible preaches the


48
contrary of the truth learned in our existence on earth." He

47. Essays, p. 332.


48. Demeny, p. 76.

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began to ascribe to a pantheistic spiritual alignment, finding in

nature his inspiration and source of solace, "...if I ever crossed

myself, it would signify "In the name of Nature, Art and


49
/
S c i e n c e T h i s was manifested in the rich symbolism of nature

images in his music of the time, and remained an element of his

music throughout his career, especially in the "night music"

sequences of the Out of Doors Suite, the third Improvisation on

Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20, and the second movement of the

Piano Concerto No. 3.

Bartok"s sense of inner conflict and alienation was

compounded by his ill-fated infatuation with a fellow student at

the Academy, the violinist Stefi Geyer. He found in Geyer a

soulmate, one in whom he thought he could confide his inner turmoil

and budding philosophies. Bartok, characterized throughout his

life as a private, reserved and aloof personality, poured himself

into uncharacteristically lengthy and passionate epistles with

Geyer, written during folk song collecting tours of the

countryside. In this correspondence of September 1907, Bartok

described his period of religious conflict, of questioning and

49. Ibid.

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final rejection of the basic doctrines of Christianity:

For it isn't God who created man in his own image, after

his likeness: It is man who created God after his own

likeness. It is not the body that's mortal and the

soul that's inmortal, but the other way round: The

soul is transitory and the body (that is, matter) is

everlasting! Why are these false doctrines thrust upon

so many millions of people— to ensure that they are

accepted by the vast majority of people throughout

their lives and can only be cast aside by a minority


50
after a conflict that should be unnecessary.

Apparently Bartok's radical fervor was too much for Geyer—

she must have responded with shock and disapproval, because

Bartok's next letter attempts a clarification of his views, and

although conciliatory in tone, gently expresses his sadness and

disillusionment that she should cling to traditional beliefs:

I wouldn't have thought you capable of such dogmatism;

that you believed in this or that just as you've been

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told to. Or maybe I am after all mistaken in thinking

that you accept as true that clumsy fable about the

Holy Trinity? There is a kind of holiness which can be

entirely accounted for in terms of human qualities,

and which is recognized by many thoughtful people.

But to stick your head in the noose of dogmas! I must


51
have got your letter all wrong, I am sure.

Geyer broke with Bartok sometime during early 1908,

compounding his sense of inevitable loneliness. He was less and

less at hone in the city, where he was offended by the triviality

of cultural tastes and principles. He found solace only in the

countryside, among nature and rural folk, but was forced to spend

most of his time in Budapest, where he could earn a living.

The events of 1907-1908 had a direct bearing on his

compositions of that tine. During the summer of 1907, when Bartok's

relationship with Geyer was as yet untroubled by religious

differences— he first broached the subject of his views in the

correspondence of September— he began the composition of his first

51. Ibid.

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93

Violin Concerto. The Concerto was dedicated to Geyer, a gifted

violinist, and intended for her performance. He was occupied with

its composition during the troubling period of their correspondence

and separation, and in one letter described his state of mind:

After reading your letter, I sat down to the piano— I

have a a sad misgiving that I shall never find any

consolation in life save in music. And yet— [here

Bartok noted several measures of music, and above the

four notes C#-E-Gjf-B# wrote "this is your 'Leitmotiv'"]

For seme time, I have been in a very strange mood, going

from one extreme to the other. One letter frcm you, a

line, even a word— and I am in a transport of joy, the

next brings me almost to tears, it hurts so. What is to

be the end of it all? And when? It is as if I am in a


52
state of spiritual intoxication all the time.

52. Ibid., p. 87.

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Bartok completed the Concerto in February of 1908, after

Geyer had severed ties with him, then copied a long poem onto the

last page and mailed the original manuscript to her. Neither of

them wished to hear the work perfonred after the pain of ending the

relationship, and so the work remained unknown and unperformed

until after her death, when it was premiered in 1958 by Paul Sacher

in Basel, Switzerland, fifty years after its composition.

The leitmotif to which Bartok referred in his letter to Geyer

is the primary symbol of the autobiographical meaning in the works

of this period. It had the same significance in its major or minor

form; i.e., a major triad with a major seventh or a minor triad

with a major seventh were two versions of the same motive (Ex. 21).

EX.21: THE STEFI GEYER LEITMOTIF

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Both movements of the Violin Cbncerto are based heavily on

this thane, and it is also an important feature of the Fourteen

Bagatelles. Bagatelle No. 14, composed on March 20, bears the

title "Ma mie qui danse" [My dancing sweetheart]. The title refers

to Geyer, and the Bagatelle features her leitmotif in ironic

fashion— this parody of a waltz is perhaps related to the

"spiritual intoxication" described above (Ex. 22).

EX. 22: BAGATELLE NO. 14, MM. 8-12

Bartok combined the first movement of the Violin Concerto with

Bagatelle No. 14 in a transcription for orchestra titled IWo

Portraits, Op. 5. The Cbncerto movement, labeled "Ideal," paints

a loving portrait of the beloved. The Bagatelle transcription,

"Grotesque," is an irreverant rcmp.

Bagatelle No. 13, titled "Elle est morte" [She is dead], was

written on February 14, 1908. The significance of the title and

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the use of the leitmotif is especially fascinating in light of the

direct resemblance it bears to the example used by Bartok to

introduce the motif to Geyer in the September, 1907 letter. Both

create a ponderous dirge-like mood using a triadic dotted-rhytlm

accompaniment. The leitmotif appears in the same transposition,

although in different guises: the fragment fran the letter uses the

version with a minor third, the Bagatelle employs the major third

version, and is an enharmonic spelling. At the point in the

letter where the leitmotif occurs, Bartok wrote above the notes:

"This is your "Leitmotiv'" (Ex. 23a).


53 Above the leitmotif in
the first edition of the Bagatelles, a measure almost identical to

the example, in the letter, he wrote the words: "She dies" (fix.

23b). This was removed in later editions, because the connection

with Stefi Geyer became less important, and this thane took on a

more generalized meaning for the composer. However, there is no

doubt that the original intention of the funereal Bagatelle No. 13

was to express Bartok's mourning for the loss of Geyer.

53. Ibid.

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EX. 23A: LEITMOTIF FROM BAKIUK'S LETTER TO STEFI GEYER

Temporal distance from the pain of parting from Geyer made it

possible for Bartok eventually to employ this theme as a more

objective symbol, no longer referring specifically to one person,

but to thanes of opposition, of contradiction, in general.

The Stefi Geyer leitmotif appears in various guises throughout

the works of this period. The first movement of the Ten Easy

Pieces, composed in June 1908, immediately after the Bagatelles,

opens with this theme as an introductory fanfare:

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EX. 24: "DEDICATION," FROM TEN EASY PIECES, ram 1-4

Transformations of this same theme have been identified in

several other works of 1908-1917. Judith's primary thane in the

opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle is a descending minor-major seventh

chord (Ex. 25a). The opening motive of the First String Quartet

(1908) (the first two notes of each of the violin parts) are

constructed out of this same chord: the F-A-flat-C-E is a minor-

major chord in inversion, with octave displacement in the second

violin part (Ex. 25b).

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EX 25A: JUDITH'S MOTIVE FROM BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE

EX 25B: STRING QUARTET NO. 1, 1ST MVT., MM. 1-4

VIOUMO I

The autobiographical connection of Bagatelles Nos. 13 and L4

is quite clear from the reference to the leitmotif in Bartok's

letter and the titles of the movements. But personal themes are

also to be found on a deeper level. One can sense a sadness in the

general tone of most of the Bagatelles, evidenced by solemn tempos,

(Nos. 1, 4, 6, 8, 12 and 1_3) and a tendency toward downward-ending

contours in nearly every Bagatelle, especially toward the end of

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100

movements (Ex. 26). This downward shape can be seen both as typical

of the contours of folk melodies and as expressive of Bartok's

pessimistic state of mind at the time of composition.

EX 26: CHARACTERISTIC DESCENDING COUTOURS IN THE BAGATELLES

26A: BAGATELLE NO. 7, MM. 116-118

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101

26C: BAGATELLE NO. 8, MM. 1-2

Andante sostenuto ^/si-eo.

26D: BAGATELLE NO. 13, MM. 1-3

L ento funebre H o .n
___
>>// motto eaprcs*.
"— •'v ’r”-

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A more complete discussion is in order for Bagatelle No. 12.

Elusive because of its evocative nature, one can sense intuitively

a depth of meaning, yet what that meaning might be is difficult to

ascertain. A connection with the program of Nos. 13 and 14_ is

implied by a frequent sublimation of the Stefi Geyer leitmotif in

the harmony— the motive never appears in overt melodic form, but

major 7th chords are basic harmonic materials (Ex. 27).

EX. 27: BAGATELLE NO. 12, MM. 1-3

Deeper insights into No. 12 can best be gained by first

considering a pair of works which followed a few years later.

Certain of the themes emerging in Bartok's life and music were

explored in depth in two stage works, his only opera Bluebeard' s

Castle (1911) and the ballet-pantomime The Wooden Prince (1914-

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103

1916). Both works were written in collaboration with the poet

Bela Balazs, who together with Endre M y and Mihaly Babits was one

of the most important Hungarian literary voices of the early

twentieth century. Balazs and Zoltan Kodaly became acquainted in

their student days, and Bartok probably came into contact with the

poet through Kodaly. All three were an integral part of a

generation of Hungarian intellectuals and idealists who forged a


54
new path in modern Hungarian art and literature.

Balazs shared Bartok's dilemma and his goals. His poetry

centered around the themes with which Bartok was obsessed, that he

was formulating in his letters to Geyer: the inevitable solitude

and loneliness of man, and of his isolation from society; the

pantheistic attitudes expressed in the worship of nature and the

54. Balazs, Kodaly and Bartok were active in meetings of a group of


Hungarian intellectuals centered around Balazs and Gyflrgy
Lukacs, known as the "Sunday Circle," who met in the apartments
of the members to discuss avante garde artistic, social and
political issues. The writers of the movement founded a
literary journal called Nyugat [The West], geared toward the
tastes and philosophies of the progressive intellectual
generation. It was in Nyugat that the works later involved in
Balazs-Bartok collaborations were first published.

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symbolic use of nature's images; and the tragedy and hopelessness

inherent in the relationship of man and woman. Their common goal

was to find the proper Hungarian expression in literature and music

of the Hungarian soul, and to express in art the themes that they

considered the inevitable plight of man. These ideas remained

central to Bartok's art even after the pain of his break with Stefi

had subsided, and the works composed in collaboration with the poet

Balazs illustrate that these themes were bigger than the one love

affair.

Bluebeard's Castle tells of the wheedling, prying ways in

which Bluebeard's wife Judith, whcm he has brought to his castle

for the first time, forces her way into each of the closed rooms.

Bartok had married his first wife Marta Ziegler by the tine of

the composition of Bluebeard, and the relentless probing of Judith

into the most private recesses of Bluebeard's castle, and the

tragic inevitability of her fateful destruction are no doubt

symbolic of Bartok's relationship with Marta. He even dedicated the

opera to his first wife— an ominous tribute, because he divorced

Marta soon after to marry his second wife Ditta Pasztory.

The Wooden Prince also deals with themes of alienation

between man and woman, although with a somewhat happier ending, and

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105

in the guise of a fairy tale. A Prince, in trying to attract the

attention of a lovely Princess who does not notice him at all,

fights the forces of nature in vain to reach her. Finally he

constructs a wooden puppet, adorns it with his cloak and swaths of

his own hair. The Princess is enthralled and delighted, and dances

with the puppet. The Prince finds, however, that she loves only

the puppet, not the Prince who made it. Eventually, influenced

through the forces of Nature, the Princess comes to a deeper

awareness and is united with the Prince. This fable is

symbolic on many levels: the alienation of man and wcman, of the

creator from society, (the Princess loved the art but not the

artist), and the benevolent and influential character of nature.

Bartok and Balazs developed these ideas in the opera and

the ballet, and it is through an understanding of the cannon

vocabulary of musical gestures anploved in these works that the

true meaning of Bagatelle No. 12 becomes apparent. Unmistakable

similarities in types of musical gesture can be seen between the

Bagatelle and especially the Wooden Prince— so unmistakable that

the Bagatelle can be seen as a prototype for the later work, even

though Bartok did not begin its composition until several years

after the Bagatelles— Balazs' Wooden Prince text was not even

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written until 1912.

Both Bluebeard"s Castle and The Wooden Prince are conceived

in an arch form, which, because of the dramatic genres, is

intricately connected with the dramaturgy. In the opera, the drama

proceeds frcm the darkness of the castle, becoming brighter as

Judith opens each successive door, peaking with the brilliance, of

the fifth door. From that point to the end, the scene returns to

darkness as the tragedy approaches. The key structure supports

this arch-form concept: the opening darkness is portrayed in a

somber f-sharp pentatonic framework, the fifth door scene gleans in

C major, and the work returns to the darker tonality at the end.

The story of The Wooden Prince is also constructed in a

symmetrical manner: it opens with the awakening of nature,

followed by dances between characters, most importantly between the

Princess and the wooden puppet. A central, slower section depicts

a dream sequence. The Princess and puppet dance again, and the

work ends with musical images of nature. Again, the tonal plan

follows the dramatic arch structure: the opening and closing

sections remain in C major, while the central section is tonally

ambiguous, with a frequent emphasis on C-sharp. The composer

himself described the construction:

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There are three clearly distinguishable parts, within

which are smaller sections, too.

The first part lasts till the end of the duet between the

wooden puppet and the princess. The second one is far

more tranquil, of typical middle-movement character, and

it continues to the reappearance of the wooden puppet.

The third part is actually the repetition of the first

part but in inverse order of subdivisions, a natural


55
requirement because of the libretto.

This palindromic structure was favored by Bartok in many of

his most important later works (e.g. Fourth String Quartet,

Concerto for Orchestra), but its first application was in Bagatelle

No. 12. In a much compressed manner, the Bagatelle conforms to the

formal, dramatic and even tonal contours of The ftboden Prince. The

opening is nebulous and static, like the awakening of nature. The

second section is dance-like, and gathers energy and intensity as

it progresses, arrriving in the center at a magical, dream-like

55. Essays, p. 406.

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apex. The contour of the second B section is inverted, the figures

now descending in hopelessness, and in the final section, a return

of the opening, the energy disperses. The structural similarities

of the ballet and the Bagatelle are ilustrated below.

EX. 28: STRUCTURE OF TIE WOODEN PRINCE AND BAGATELLE


NO. 12

56
The Wooden Prince

The Awakening/ Dance of Princess / Dream / Dance /Closing Scene


of Nature and Puppet (nature)

Bagatelle No. 12

Static / Pantomime / Dream / Pantomime/ Static


Gestures Gestures

Bartok associated certain musical gestures with the common

themes of these related works. The rising and falling, wave-like

figures which begin the B section of Bagatelle No. 12 (Ex. 29a)

have their counterparts in Judith's entreaty to Bluebeard to give

her the keys to the doors of his castle, and in the motive

56. After Gydrgy Kroo's description in the program notes to The


Wooden Prince, Hungaroton Complete Edition Recording (LPX 11403).

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109

describing the sixth door, the "Lake of Tears" episode (Ex. 29b).

Similar gestures appear frequently throughout The Wboden Prince.

EX. 29A: BAGATELLE NO. 12, MM. 8-12

Pooo pit! mosso

-f

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EX. 29C: THE WOODEN PRINCE, MM. 272-274

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I ll

The fragmentation of this figure in the Bagatelle produces

one of the most striking similarities of gesture to the ballet.

This is the pantomime technique Bartok used to describe physical

movement in music. This type of gesture lends itself naturally to

ballet, of course, where movement is an integral part of the

communication, but manages to suggest ballet-like movement even in

other settings. The pantomime gesture of Bagatelle No. 12 (Ex. 30)

resembles the figures used in the dance of the princess and the

wooden puppet in the ballet (Ex. 31).

EX. 30: BAGATELLE NO. 12, MM. 13-18

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112

EX. 31: THE WOODEN PRINCE, MM. 138-147

Allegretto acheriando I

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113

(Bartok's pantomime technique can be observed in another facet

of his musical language of this time, his "tipsy" style. In No^ 2

of Three Burlesques, Op. 8c ("Slightly Tipsy"). Bartok effectively

portrayed the clumsy movements appropriate to the title. Similar

staggering, stumbling gestures in humorous fashion are found in

both Bagatelles Nos. 1_ and 1JL.)

Bagatelle No. 12 also resembles the overall outline of the

larger works in terms of tonality. Bluebeard's Castle moves from an

F-sharp pentatonic tonality to a central C major tonality and back

again. The Wooden Prince also begins and ends in C major, moving

to a more tonally ambiguous middle section. Bagatelle No. 12, too,

begins and ends with an emphasis on the semitone B/C while the

evocative measures of the central section assert an F-natural/F-

sharp tonal basis. Just as certain keys were associated with

specific moods or meanings in earlier composers, for instance the

tragic or fateful c minor quality of Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata,

Op. 13 and his Symphony No. 5, Bartok seems to have associated a C

tonality, and its opposite implication (the tritone F-sharp) with

the gestures and intentions embodied in this group of works.

The descriptive significance of these musical

characteristics— gestures, themes, tonal relationships— becomes

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114

increasingly apparent as one compares Bagatelle No. 12 to The

Wooden Prince and Bluebeard's Castle. Their meaning is made clear

by association with the text in the two later works, and by

inference one must therefore associate the Bagatelle with these

same elemental themes. But how closely are they actually related?

If Bartok first became familiar with Balazs Wooden Prince text in

1912, then it is impossible to consider the Bagatelle, written in

1908, a direct sketch for the ballet.

The key lies in the poem copied onto the last page of the

original manuscript of the Violin Concerto, which Bartok mailed to

Stefi Geyer after their parting. According to GyOrgy


.
Kroo,
57that text was a poem by Balazs which told the story of a
young man destined to be alienated frcm the rest of mankind, and to

find solace only in nature— the Loneliness and Pantheism themes of

the Wooden Prince. One line from the poem reads: "No two stars are
58
so far apart as two human souls." Balazs and Bartok were indeed

57. Kroo, Bartok Handbuch (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1974) p. 38


58. Ibid., translation by this author.

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115

already dealing with these thanes in their work of 1908. The

connection between the Violin Concerto, to which Bartok attached

the poem, and Bagatelle No. 12 is an easy one— the Concerto was

composed for, and dedicated to, Stefi Geyer. There is no question

of the significance of the poem in light of the painful love story

between the two. Bagatelles Nos. 13 and 14, also directly inspired

by this situation, were composed within weeks of the completion of

the Concerto. It is uncertain precisely when Bagatelle No. 12 was

composed, but in any case by the end of May 1908. The musical clues

supply the final evidence, that Bartok began to associate these

fundamental themes with certain types of musical gestures in 1908.

Bagatelle No. 12 was the first manifestation of this mode of

expression which culminated in The Wooden Prince. It was in the

musical working out of these issues that Bartok came to terms

personally with his problems— the thanes were felt by him to be

universal, and he continued to develop them even after the names of

the characters changed. Whether at the time of composition he was

referring to Stefi Geyer, or later to his first wife Marta Ziegler,

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116

the fundamental ideas were the sane. Bartok associated what to him

were basic truths with a certain type of musical expression, and

the first product of this aspect of his musical style was the

Bagatelle No. 12, the prototype of his stage works of 1911 and

1916.

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CHAPTER FIVE

PROBLEMS TOTH THE SCORE

The pianist beginning an interpretative study of the Fourteen

Bagatelles is certain to encounter difficulties of various types

related to the printed score. Bartok was liberal with specific

performance instructions, particularly articulation and dynamic

markings, but this abundance of punctuation marks can be a source

of confusion. In addition, there are numerous inconsistencies—

mistakes or ambiguities of pitch or tempo— in the various editions

of the Bagatelles which can be corrected only through a study of

the primary sources, such as original manuscripts and corrected

editions. Not every question raised here has a ready answer, but

the prospective performer should be prepared to make appropriate

117

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118

interpretative decisions based on the material presented here.

Articulation Markings

Bartok was brimming with new ideas and new methods of

communicating them during the composition of the Bagatelles. His

approach to piano playing was unorthodox in that he looked upon the

piano primarily as a percussion instrument. He wanted to help the

performer understand his unusual concepts of pianistic touch, and

to that purpose developed a system of symbols to express the

various subtle gradations of ways to strike the keys. He used the

traditional vocabulary of articulation signs, such as staccato

dots, slurs, tenuto marks and various types of accents, but with a

specific concept of their relationship to eyach other. In other


x
words, he distinguished between degrees of staccato, legato, and

accentuation.

Bartok used two types of notation in his piano works, a

concert style, intended for himself or other professionals, and a-

more didactic style. The professional notation can be seen in the

major piano works of his mid- to late- career, intended for his own

performance, such as the Piano Sonata and the Piano Concertos. In

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119

this style of notation only essential details such as articulations

and dynamics are included; the score is relatively clean of

excessive markings. The composer assumed that the performer

understood the basic rhetoric of keyboard notation, and needed oily

the details essential to the work in question. But Bartok was a

pedagogue, and many of his piano works were written with didactic

purposes in mind. Although the Bagatelles contain technical

challenges beyond those of most works identified by the composer as


59
pedagogical, the editors of the first edition announced their

publication as "teaching pieces." In any case, he filled the score

with extremely detailed articulation markings, using the type of

instructional notation typical of his teaching works.

As Bartok was ccmposing the Bagatelles, he was also teaching

a studio of advanced piano students in his recently acquired

position at the Budapest Academy. As a result of his teaching

activities, he undertook the preparations for a number of teaching

59. Bartok composed several collections of relatively easy piano


pieces specifically for teaching purposes, most notably: For
Children, Vols. I and II, Ten Easy Pieces, and six volumes
of Mikrokosmos. The latter is a graded series, with the final
two volumes encompassing quite sophisticated technical and musical
difficulties.

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120

editions of the classics, including works of Beethoven and Bach.

His first edition of Bach's Das Wohl-Temperierte Klavier was

prepared during 1907, shortly before he began the composition of

the Bagatelles. The intention of this edition was didactic— he

even rearranged the order of the pairs of preludes and fugues to

follow a sequence of increasing difficulty— and Bartok was

concerned with the same problems of articulation that he faced in

his own piano compositions of 1907-1908. The style of articulation

notation in the Bach edition is similar to the Bagatelles as well

as to Ten Easy Pieces and For Children. An illuminating

explanation of articulation and dynamic notation which Bartok

appended to the Bach edition is therefore applicable to these other

compositions as well, and serves as a much-needed reference in

sorting out these difficulties.

One and the same sign serves as a phrasing and a legato

indication: the slur. Therefore we want to remark right

away that the last tone of a phrase will be separated

from the beginning of the next by a sharp staccato in

only extremely rare instances. It is more usually

advisable to simply inflect the following phrase with a

barely perceptible dynamic coloration. In cases where a

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121

definite separation between phrases appears to be

desirable, we will use the dividing sign / .

We will indicate non legato simply with non legato or

with poco legato. The first indicates a heavier attack,

the second a lighter one. In a slower tempo we will set

the ---- (tenuto) sign over non legato tone groups m

when we wish them to be held nearly their full value; - ~

mean as much as half the duration, combined with a tenuto

attack. The portamento [Bartok misuses the term; he

means "portato" ] sign^’T T ^ implies a similar execution.

The only difference between the two lies in that the

portamento-touch requires more lightness. The notes

provided with . . . . (staccato) dots would in the rarest

of cases be sharply clucked, we would much more often


60
play such notes with a muted Staccato, rounded in tone.

60. Bartok, commentary to Das Wohl-Temperierte Klavier by J. S.


Bach, translation by this author.

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122

In his 1916 edition of selections fran the Notebook for

Anna Magdalena Bach, Bartok clearly defined the ideas set

forth above in a list of articulation markings:

= sharp staccato (staccatissimo) implying a certain

accentuation and a stronger tone color.

. . . = the regular staccato, whereby the tone should be

permitted to sound between a moment and almost

one half of the note value.

. . . = portamento [portato], whereby the tones must be

permitted to sound almost up to half of the note

value in conjunction with a certain special

coloring.

t t t = the symbol for half-shortening (the tones should

not sound shorter than half of the note value).

= the tenuto symbol above different notes signifies

that they must be held for their entire note

value; when above each note of a group, that we

must permit the notes to sound throughout their

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123

entire note value if possible, without linking

them to one another.

= the well-known legato symbol, which we are also

using, in the case of legato parts, for marking

the phrase for lack of another symbol.

sf = strongest accentuation

= accentuation still forceful enough

> = weak accentuation

= the tenuto symbol above the different tones of the

legato parts signifies delicately emphasizing the


61
tone by way of a different tone coloring.

In reference to the Mikrokosroos pieces, Benjamin Suchoff

elaborates on Bartok's specifications in the extremely helpful

catalogue of touches and articulations included in his Guide to the

61. Translation from Masters Music Publications, Inc. publication


of Bartok's edition of J. S. Bach's Notebook for Anna Magdalena
Bach.

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124

Mikrokosmos. 62 He assigns the various types of pianistic touch to

the two basic categories of "percussive," i.e. a striking of the

key, and "tenuto," a pressing of the key. He further adds that the

former is the basic method of playing in Bartok's piano music, the

second is employed for special coloristic shadings. Under

"percussive touch-forms" he includes staccatissimo, staccato, non-

legato, legato and legatissimo. Tenuto, dotted tenuto, portato

and espressivo and dolce touches are included as the "pressure"

touch forms.

All of the types of articulation denotations listed above

appear in the Bagatelles. To further complicate matters, they

often occur in conjunction with slurs. In Bagatelle No. 1, the

first two measures alone contain several different articulations:

the right hand is tenuto under a two-bar slur, ending with an

accent A ; the left hand is dotted tenuto over a five-note slur,

ending with tenuto. Because of the specificity of the touch

indications— every note has its own— we can assume that the slurs

serve their phrase-defining function, rather than influencing the

62. (New York: Da Capo Press, 1983) p. 14.

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125

articulation. According to Bartok's (and Suchoff's) instructions,

the right hand in this case should play the first three notes with

a caressing touch, almost connected, producing a rounded, wannly-

colored tone. The last note should be given extra sound. The

left-hand notes should be played with a slightly shorter tone. The

delineation of the contrast between the articulations contributes

to the stratification of the two voices, and should be cultivated

as a primary means of communicating the composer's intentions in

this piece (Ex. 32).

EX. 32: BAGATELLE NO. 1, MM. 1-5-

Molib sostenuto iuo

With an understanding of the explanations of the

relationships between various types of touch and articulation

provided by Bartok and Suchoff, the careful performer can begin to

develop a personal repertoire of colors and sounds in accordance

with the intentions of the composer. It should be added that

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126

notes with no slurs nor other signs are understood to be non-

legato, played with the "percussive" finger stroke, and those under

a slur with no other signs are legato. Very important to keep in

inind is that "percussive" refers simply to a technical approach to

the key— the striking of the key with a finger stroke of more or

less velocity— not to a strident or harsh quality of tone.

Dynamics

The dynamic signs used in the Bagatelles are for the most

part orthodox and self-explanatory. One aspect of dynamics,

however, that of crescendo and diminuendo, bears consideration.

Bartok, in his notes to the Wohl-Temperierte Klavier, stated that

"ascending voice leading should usually go hand in hand with a


63
crescendo, that in the opposite direction with diminuendo." This

comment is relevant to the Bagatelles, as they are representative

of the emergence of Bartok's new linear style. The association of

rising and falling contours with crescendo and diminuendo,

respectively, was a convention of Romantic piano playing,

63. Notes to Das Wohl-Temperierte Klavier (Budapest: Rozsnyai,


1910).

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127

automatically understood by performers. But Bartok, in his

didactic notation, tended to leave little to presumption. In the

example above from Bagatelle No. 1_ he notated in no uncertain terms

the crescendo and diminuendo which follow the ascending and

descending contours in agreement with the general rules stated in

the Bach edition.

Bartok did adapt one dynamic sign to his purposes, and

applied it in both the Bach Wohl-Temperierte Klavier and his own

Bagatelles. "Thin < > should mean an almost imperceptible cresc.

and dim., limited only to a particular voice, a thick < means a


64
bigger cresc., which applies to all the voices equally." Because

he used both types of crescendo indications in the Bagatelles the

pianist must take care to regulate the degree of crescendo properly

and to determine to which strata of the texture it applies. The

incidences of the bold print crescendo sign in the Bagatelles are

always quite clear in meaning: an exaggerated crescendo of the

entire texture is indicated. There are instances, however, when

the interpretation of the signs in normal print should be

64. Ibid.

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influenced by Bartok's instructions. Bagatelle No. 5 illustrates

both these usages: the heavy print in mm. 45-47 (Ex. 33) indicates

an extreme crescendo; the lighter diminuendo in mm. 48-50 a lesser

dynamic change. The lighter-type crescendo and diminuendo above the

right hand part in mm. 58-59 indicate that the dynamics pertain

only to the upper parts.

EX. 33: BAGATELLE NO. 5, MM. 42-59

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129

Rests

Bartok supplied the Bagatelles and Ten Easy Pieces with an

identical list of performance instructions. Among the items on

this list is his explanation of an unusual use of rests, which

occurs in Bagatelles No. 9 and 11_: "Here and there a rest is

placed above the barline. There we want a pause between the

respective measures, whose duration is indicated by the value of


65
the rest." This device throws the established rhythm off-balance

and produces a "tipsy" effect, especially in No. 11, where it

occurs frequently. In preparation it is certainly necessary to

consider the actual duration of the rest indicated, but as these'

are sometimes odd fractions of a beat, absolute accuracy may be

difficult, and is probably less essential than achievement of the

musical concept. An interpretation based on grasping the mood of

the music— a humorously lumbering character in No. 11, a rhythmic

lift in No. 9— is a more fruitful approach than one preoccupied

with exact mathematical calculations.

65. The Piano Music of Bela Bartok, Series I, ed. Benjamin Suchoff,
p. 68.

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130

Arpeggio Indications

Bartok's piano music, beginning with the Bagatelles,

frequently employs a downward arpeggio (rolled chord) (Ex. 34a). To

distinguish this fran the conventional upward arpeggio he placed

the wavy arpeggio indication after the chord, instead of its usual

position preceding the targeted chord. In later works (frcm about

1920) he modified this indication, placing the indication before

the chord as in conventional ascending arpeggios, but affixing a

downward-pointing arrow to the arpeggio sign (Ex. 34b).

EX. 34A: BAGATELLE NO. 10, MM. 90-93

tf " > F¥ T ? — r-7

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131

EX.34B: EIGHT IMPROVISATIONS ON HUNGARIAN PEASANT


SONGS, OP. 20 (1920), NO. VII, MM. 18-21

Discrepancies Between the Sources

In order to evaluate discrepancies between modern editions it

is necessary to consult the primary sources of the Bagatelles.

These sources, divided between the Budapest Bartok Archive and the

private collection of Peter Bartok (formerly the New York Bartok

Archive) are listed below:

1. The Black Sketch Book: located in the Budapest Archive, contains

fragments of Bagatelles No. 8, 9, 13, 14, and perhaps seme other

sketches originally intended to be Bagatelles. Facsimile edition,

edited by Laszlo Kalmar with conmentary by Laszlo Somfai, published

in 1987 by Editio Musica, Budapest.

2. First draft of Bagatelles No. 1^ 2^ 3^ 5^ 6, dated April 14,

1908, located in Budapest Bartok Archive.

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132

3. Bagatelle No. 6, copied by Zoltan Kodaly, in Budapest Bartok

Archive.

4. Second Draft of the entire set, dated May, 1908, in collection

of Peter Bartok.

5. Engraver's copy, dated August, 1908, in Budapest Bartok

Archive.

6. First Edition, autumn of 1908, published by Roznyai in Leipzig

and Budapest, with corrections in the hand of the composer, in the

private collection of Peter Bartok.

7. Bartok's instructions for the Leipzig engraver, located in the

Budapest Bartok Archive, reprinted in Studia Musicologica XXIII/1,

(1981) p. 61.

Of these primary sources, the first edition with corrections

by Bartok (item 6) stands as the authoritative source. The

corrections to the edition were evidently added by Bartok in

preparation for a volume proposed for publication by the publisher

E. B. Marks in 1945. Although a contract was signed, the edition

never appeared, its publication interrupted by Bartok's final

illness and death. Translations of various footnotes in the score

into English (in Bartok's own hand) support this theory. The

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133

canposer also struck through the page containing the introductory

remarks concerning accidentals, rests, pedal indications, etc.,

that had been published with all previous editions of the

Bagatelles as well as with Ten Easy Pieces. Instead he supplied

many of the markings in question in the score itself— the score is

full of Bartok's additions, especially of accidentals, which would

have been redundant in combination with the introductory

explanation. He was clearly preparing to publish the score for the

first time without the explanation. Perhaps he realized that those

explanations, new in 1908, had becane common practice by the

1940's, and no longer required explicit statement.

A number of editions of the Bagatelles have been published.

Until recently the pianist had no choice but to rely on fallible

editions, the most familiar being those frcm Boosey & Hawkes and

Editio iMusica Budapest, both of which have perpetuated a number of

important errors. In 1981 Dover Publications, Inc. produced Series

I and II of the Piano Music of Bela Bartok in the Archive Edition,

edited by Benjamin Suchoff. Series _I includes the Bagatelles in the

most authoritative printed text to date. A number of pitch and

dynamic errors appear corrected for the first time in print, and

helpful and interesting information about the music is included by

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134

the editor. There remain, however, several unresolved points

related to the accuracy of the text. In all matters of pitch (two

incorrect pitches in Bagatelle No. 14 have remained in print

until the Dover Edition) and articulation and dynamic markings, it

suffices to rely on the authority of Suchoff, except in Bagatelle

No^ 13., rn. 16, where a half rest in the bass clef should be a

quarter rest.

Bartok's use of durational indications and metronome markings

are of special interest to the careful interpreter of the text of

the Bagatelles. The composer included metronome markings as early

as the second draft of 1908. Through the various stages of

composition many of these indications changed, same quite

radically. The durata seem to have been added only in 1945, and so

can provide supportive evidence in the question of tempo.

Bagatelles No. 4 and 9. have carried metronome indications

through same of the editions that are extremely misleading, and

have in fact misled recording artists. In all editions prior to

Dover (where it stands corrected) and in the second draft, Nck £

bears a metronome indication of quarter note = 50. But in the

corrected first edition Bartok crossed out the printed indication

and wrote dotted-half note = 50-62, conclusive evidence that the

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135

piece should be performed three times faster than anyone could ever

have kncwn from the pre-1981 editions.

Bagatelle No. £ presents a situation less conclusively

soluble frcm the evidence. In the second draft the piece bears the

metronome marking eighth-note = 69. The Boosey & Hawkes edition

revised that extremely slew tempo to twice the speed at

quarter note = 69.

Although Bartok does not alter the original marking in the

corrected first edition, he does indicate at the end of the piece

that the duration should be one minute, ten seconds, which could

only be achieved at the faster tenpo. It is therefore safe to

assutie that Boosey & Hawkes and Suchoff are correct in including

the faster tempo.

Bartok was fallible in his corrections— perhaps he never

quite completed them in his last year. In the case stated above, the

duration indicates that the metroncme narking is incorrect. In

Bagatelle No. 2 the opposite is true, and we have the additional

evidence of Bartok's own recorded performance to prove this point.

He noted in the score that the entire piece should take one

minute, 48 seconds to perform. The two extant recordings of

Bartok's performance of this piece last only 45 and 44 seconds

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136

each. Clearly, Bartok unwittingly added a minute to the durational

indication that he wrote at the end of the piece. The Dover edition

includes Bartok's original durata, even this false one. The

incorrect duration is in brackets— it would be better to add a note

of explanation and include the correct timing.

Bagatelle No. 3 presents yet another case in which the

corrections of 1945 prove the previous editions wrong. All

editions prior to the Dover edition list the tempo indication as

dotted-half note = 46. Bartok changed this to quarter note = 126

in his 1945 corrections, and this change is incorporated by

Suchoff. In this case, the difference in tempo is slight; the

change alters the sense of pulse, three as opposed to one per

measure.

By far the most difficult tempo problem is posed by Bagatelle

No. 12. The piece contains numerous tempo changes which have been

designated in as many as three different note values through the

various sources. Even though in a triple meter (freely mixing 6/8,

9/8, and 3/8) Bartok, in the second draft of 1908, set the unit of

beat in most of the tempo indications as the quarter note. Because

of the consistency with which this phenomenon occurs, it is

difficult to dismiss as simple carelessness. As shown in the table

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137

below, the older editions simply included the curious quarter-note

unit without any advice to the performer; Suchoff consistently

changed it to an eighth-note; neither serves as an entirely

satisfactory solution.

EX. 35: METRONOME INDICATIONS IN BAGATRT.T.F. NO. 12

2nd 1st Bartok's Dover Boosey Eaitio


draft edition 1945 edition & Hawkes Musica
corrections (Suchoff)
to 1st ed.

Rubato
m. 2 Andante
sostenuto
=72J / =72 >=72 >=72 ), =72 j =72
m. 6 j =92 ) =92 >=92 #>=92 ) =92
m. 7 =80J J =80 >=80 j=80 ) =80

Poco piu inosso


-
_

II

J =50
O
’A
3

>=50 >=50
o

)=50
\

m. 21 =58 J =85 J >=85 ) =85 j =85


Lento .
m. 23 |=54 =58 J >=58 >=58 >=58
Poco piu andante
m. 24 >
=76-80 ^=76-80 >=76-80 >=76-80 >=76-80

Poco piu inosso


m. 26 J =50 >=50 >=50 >=50 j =50 j =50
m. 34 ) =58 J=58 >=85 >=85 i =58 J =58
m. 36 J>=50 j =50 > =70=76 > =70-76 ) =50 ;=so

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138

The verbal instruction "Andante sostenuto" of the draft may

lend some insight as to the original desires of the composer. At

the quarter-note unit, the music is rather quick and energetic, and

this nay veil support the eighth-note pulse. And yet a hint of the

lilt of a Viennese waltz can be detected when the quarter-note

pulse is felt. It is clear from his efforts to indicate specific,

subtle shades of articulation that Bartok was interested in

communicating sane unorthodox ideas in the Bagatelles. Could the

quarter-note pulse indeed be what he intended, in order to capture

certain subtle musical inflection?

This issue is confused still further by the fact that Bartok's

metronome is known to have been faulty in the early days— until

about 1926. From 1930 onward, when he realized that the old

editions of his music were filled with metronome errors, he made a

practice of giving approximate durations of his works. (More

evidence of the late date of the first edition revisions.)

When Bartok revised the Bagatelles in 1945, he made a few

changes in the metronome indications of the first edition. Were the

revisions of Bagatelle No. 12 complete? They do not seem to be; the

change of the first marking but not the following two to an eignth-

note unit is difficult to understand except as incomplete. Further

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evidence that he was not finished with the revisions to this score

is to be found on this very page— a verbal note in Hungarian at

the bottom of the page is not stricken through and translated as

are other similar instances of prose. Why did he make the changes?

Perhaps it had to to with the faulty metronome of his early days,

but the changes themselves are not of that type— they are not

sanewhat slower or faster, but slower or faster by multiples of two

or three, depending on the unit of beat measured. Perhaps Bartok

had simply mellowed somewhat, given in at the end, realizing that

his earlier esoteric indications were too puzzling, and intended,

but did not complete, a revision to a more orthodox indication.

The interpreter of Bagatelle No. 12 must evaluate this

situation and make personal decisions— there seems to be no

absolute answer. Ercm this viewpoint, it seams logical to agree

basically with Suchoff, except in the case of m.9— certainly this

material should be the same tempo as its second occurrence in m.

26, especially since Bartok's correction indicates as much.

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CHAPTER SIX

CONCLUSION

The recordings left by Bartok himself, collected and edited

on Hungaroton by Laszlo Somfai and Zoltan Kocsis, are perhaps the

most important source of insight for an interpreter seeking an

authentic performance in the piano music of Bartok. The

representation of Bartok's works on these recordings is far from

complete, few of the works included appear in their entirety, and

the quality of many of the recordings, by modern standards, ranges

from mediocre to terrible, due to their age. Nevertheless, the

existence of these recordings represents a rare treasure of a

source for pianists— a chance to actually hear how Bartok the

pianist played his own works and the works of other great

canposers. Unfortunately, only Nos. 2, 7 and 10 of the Bagatelles

were recorded by the composer. As shown in the discussion of tempo

and duration in Chapter 5, the recording of No. 2 proved valuable

140

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in establishing the correct tenpo. The recordings of the three

Bagatelles also demonstrate a number of touch and accent

techniques.

By inference, however, a study of the rich variety of works

recorded by Bartok can provide a great deal of insight into his

works not represented in the recorded collection. For instance,

although Bagatelle No. 11 is not recorded, the whimsical Bagatelle

No. 2 is included, along with the second of Three Burlesques, Op.

8c ("Slightly Tipsy"), which has a similar character. These

performances tell much about Bartok's interpretation of this

unusual type of rubato playing. For parlando rubato in a folk-style

melody, an exemplary interpretation is Bartok's rendition of

"Evening in the Country," from the Ten Easy Pieces. This is a

freely composed work, using no authentic folk melody, but it was

composed in direct imitation of true folk tunes, and is performed

by the composer with exquisite freedom of rhythmic inflection.

Bartok's highly individualized piano idiom is typified in the

extremely rich variety of musical means found in the Fourteen

Bagatelles. The pianist has a responsibility to become familiar

with elements essential to the style, to seek authenticity. Yet,

after a careful study of the folk and autobiographical influences

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142

on the works, after attempting to understand the notation, the

soore and the editions, even after a thorough knowledge of Bartok's

own playing, some questions of interpretation will unavoidably

persist. The solution? After an honest attempt to understand all

that there is to understand— and based on that knowledge— the

performer must be granted an element of freedom. It is very much

in the spirit of Bartok the great pianist, who was the best

interpreter of his own works, in the final analysis, after every

detail has been considered, to play the music honestly and with

personal freedom.

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APPENDIX

ANALYTICAL NOTES TO THE FOURTEEN BAGATF.T.TES, Op. 6

Each of the Bagatelles is a capsule of compositional

technique, independent of and unrelated to the other pieces of the

set in terms of harmonic fabric. The primary technical approaches

represented in each movement are outlined below.

These comments reflect an analytical approach concerned with

both Bartok's derivations from the folk music sources and the

aspects of his style drawn from contemporary art music techniques.


66
As pointed out by Antokoletz, after whom these analytical notes

are modeled, the most meaningful analytical interpretation of

Bartok's music is to be achieved through an understanding of both

these approaches and the fundamental relationships that exist

between the two in their absorption and assimilation into Bartok's

musical style.

66. The Music of Bela Bartok: A Study of Tonality and Progression


in TVentieth-Century Music.

143

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144

BAGATELLE NO, _1

Bimodal notation is featured, although Bartok later dismissed

this as a "half-serious, half-jesting" procedure, and asserted that

the tonality is really a "Phrygian-colored C major". This can be

observed in the focusing of each cadential point on a C-E harmony,

approached through a descending G-F-Eb— Db— C melodic pattern. The

Bagatelle employs basically modal material, which, through

reordering of the members of the set into interval cycles, is

transformed into new symmetrical melodic formations. The

reordering of the opening material into a symmetrical Perfect 5th

cycle emerges in the second phrase (nm. 7-8: the presence of E-B-

Ftf-C#-G#, although not appearing in that order, implies a segment

of the P5 cycle). This P5 reordering becomes explicit in the fourth

phrase (ra. 13: E-B-F#-C#-G#-D#). The tritone is used as the

boundary of the symmetrical segment. At m. 13, for example, the P5

segment is completed by the tritone A, which by extension also

compliments the other end of the segment (A-E= P5).

BAGATELLE NO. 2

Tonality is established by symmetrical pitch relationships

ordered around a central axis. The first section emphasizes the A-

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145

A and the second section Eb-Eb. These are the two tritone

boundaries of the same dual axis:

-Rh-n-r-pa-n-T^b
A
A
-Ab-G-F#-F-E-Eb

The notes of the first section expand symmetrically around the

major second Ab-Bb (the A/A axis) and the recapitulation (mm.

18ff.) around D-E (the Eb axis). The Bagatelle is an ABA form in

which the middle section departs from axial orientation, comprising

instead a series of segments of different symmetrical interval

cycles.

BAGATELLE NO. 3

Tonality is established by symmetrical relationships around a

central axis. An oriental, folk-like melody, characterized by the

interval of the augmented second, is accompanied by a symmetrically

rotating chromatic ostinato figure. The boundaries of the melody

tend to relate to the axial center of the acccmpanimental figure

(the F#-C tritone which serves as the boundary of much of the left-

hand melody is the m2 expansion of the G-B-Bb-A-Ab accorapanimental

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figure). While the range of the melody does extend beyond the F#-C

range, this tritone is the fundamental anchoring interval of the

melody.

BAGATELLE NO. 4

This is a setting of the authentic old-style Hungarian' folk

song "Mikor gulasbojtar voltam" ("I was a cowherd"). The primary

pentatonic structure of the melody is projected vertically into the

harmony, which, although tertian in construction, is manipulated in

parallel fashion, thereby avoiding any real traditional major/minor

function. The bassline is exclusively pentatonic and the primary

intervallic constructions, the P5 and minor 7th chord, are

extracted from the symmetrical pentatonic scale on which the song

is based:

P5

D G - A - C

m7 chord

BAGATELLE NO. 5

This is a setting of the authentic Slovakian folk tune "Ej,

popred nase dvere" (Hey, before our door"). A first inversion m7

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147

chord, a vertical projection of the main outline of the melody, is

employed in a rhythmic ostinato in accompaniment to the folk-song

melody. Transitions between strophes of the melody feature motion

through the rotating inversions of the chord. Sane melodic variety

is introduced into the bassline of this ostinato in the second and

third strophes (beginning respectively at ran. 28 and 51), but the

constant reiteration of the unvarying members of the m7 chord,

itself a parallel construction, create a static harmonic

atmosphere.

BAGATELLE NO. 6

The phrase structure of Bagatelle No. 6 is modeled on that of

a Hungarian folksong, although the piece is entirely original. In

addition, the piece is organized in three strophes, a form

characteristic of Bartok's folksong settings. (Bagatelle No. 5

includes three repetitions of the authentic melody.)

Bartok's manipulation of the characteristic folksong

structure can be seen by comparing the three strophes. In the

middle stroph, mm. 8-15, four equal phrases of 7 beats each

(analagous to the equal syllabic arrangement of the four phrases of

a Hungarian folk tune) can be clearly scanned. The first and third

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148
strophes represent manipulations of that structure which

nevertheless always clearly reflect their origins. The regular

phrase structure of the first stroph is interrupted by a truncation

of the third phrase, but the melodic cadential formula used at the

end of each phrase identifies m. 5 as the completion of the third

phrase. In the third stroph (beginning m. 16) the sarre truncated

version of the phrase occurs twice, and can be viewed as either

shortened complete phrases or extensions by repetition of the

previous phrase. The entire stroph, excluding the closing codetta

(mm. 24-25) exactly matches the number of beats (syllables) of the

entirely regular second stroph. The phrases are displaced within

the eight-bar range in a sort of periodic hemiola, but the

underlying relationship to the four equal phrases of the folksong

structure is not disturbed.

Harmonic progression is achieved through the interaction of

octotonic and whole tone pitch collections through pitch cells

based on tritones which are common to both.

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149

BAGATELLE NO. 7

The harmonic materials are based on symmetrical reorderings

of diatonic melodic material into cycles of P4/P5. Explicit

occurrences in mm. 8-11 and mm. 49-60 of the P5 cycle A#-D#-G#-C#-

F# represent a reordering of the pentatonic scale D#-F#-G#-A#-C#.

Elements of bimodality can also be seen in the juxtaposition of the

left and right hand parts. In mm. 3ff. the upper C major part

contrasts with a D# Phrgian collection in the lower part, the

juxtaposition creating the effect of white keys vs. black keys.

The hands exchange white key and black key emphasis in the section

from mm. 25-46, and revert to their original roles beginning in m.

47. The "Stefi Geyer chord" ( in7) is a feature of this Bagatelle,

here tertially extended to the ninth. The left hand melody begins

with a descending rn9 arpeggio; in augmentation the sarre motive

appears in rrm. 47-48, and in stretto statements in the coda, nxn.

108-112.

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150

BAGATELLE NO. 8

This Bagatelle represents a radical departure from the

traditional concept of basic triadic construction. The piece is

based instead on the transformations of several intervallic pitch

cells, culminating finally in the explicit emergence of all the


67
possible transpositions of the symmetrical cell Z, a collection

formed of two tritones interlocking at the minor second (e.g. F#-C-

3-F). The original formation is a non-symmetrical three-note cell

comprising a minor 2nd, major 3rd and perfect 4th (G#-B#-C#).

After various transformations and interactions of this cell, the

original thematic material returns at m. 24 in a modified

recapitulation, only without its major 3rd member. At the third

statement cf the main motive in m. 26, the original major 3rd

returns, as well as a new cell member which forms a major 3rd from

the upper note. Each of the four-note symmetries which follows,

which can be seen as two semitones separated by a minor 3rd (e.g.

B-G/C-Ab=G-Ab/B-C at the downbeat of m. 26}, expand in the final

67. Terra borrowed fran Antokoletz's study cited above, p. 71n.


Antokoletz credits Leo Treitler as the originator of the term in
Treitler's "Harmonic Procedure in the Fourth Quartet of Bela
Bartok," Journal of Music Theory 3/2 (November, 1959): 292-298.

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151

passage to all six possible Z cell collections, which can be seen

as two semitones separated by a perfect 4th.

BAGATELLE NO. 9

Bagatelle No. 9 is a set of three variations in unison and a

coda. Small melodic segments function as links between diatonic,

octotonic and whole-tone collections. Progression through the

movement is produced by the pivotal qualities of these invariant

segments from one harmonic context to another. A certain ambiguity

is inherent in this process, by which the possibilities of

progression to an arrival point are expanded. For example, the end

of each variation is marked by the arrival at a short passage in

expanded durational values marked "IVblto sostenuto" (nm. 14-15, 37-

38, and 70). The context of the first such arrival is purely modal,

although whole-tone elements are interspersed with the material

leading to that point. The second variation further explores the

whole-tone idea, and its arrival point is transformed by the

substitution of a tritone (E-Bb, mm. 37-38) for the original

diatonic perfect 4th (Bb-F, imt. 13-14) as the final interval. Thus,

an ambiguity is introduced into the expectancy of the listener as

to whether the emphasis and arrival will occur in a diatonic or

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152

whole-tone context. The arrival point of the final variation,

preceded by small diatonic segments (mm. 67-69) utilizes the

version of the motive which ends with a tritone. The final measure

consists of exceedingly long note values at a greatly reduced

tempo, thereby postponing the final context-defining tritone in the

extreme, and by its ambiguity increasing the sense of uncertain

expectation.

BAGATELLE HO. 10

Bagatelle No. 10 explores the potentialities of the

intervallic properties of cell Z. This symmetrical cell, in

addition to its inherent minor 2nd, perfect 4th/5tn and tritone

qualities, can generate cycles of major 2nds (by the whole-tone

filling-in of a tritone), minor 3rds (by the minor 3rd filling-in

of a tritone), and major 3rds (by the extension of the whole-tone

cycle). Examples of the other interval cycles are employed (e.g.

whole-tones in the right hand chords of mm. 6--7 and 9, and minor

3rds in the bassline of ran. 10-13), but the primary force in

operation is the partitioning of the 2 cell into its perfect

4th/perfect 5th properties and the generation of that interval

cycle. For example, the Z cell C-G-Gb-Db (m. 17) is divided between

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153

the hands into its white key (C-G) and black key (&>~Db) perfect

5ths. The Gb-Db interval is extended through the black key area of

the cycle to Ab(G#), and A#(Bb) in m. 19, the skipped Eb member of

the cycle supplied in in. 20. The white key segment C-G is finally

expanded, and the phrase completed, with the arrival of D in in. 20.

Such cyclic expansions occur chromatically through the middle

sections of the piece, while the closing section (mm. 78-end)

emphasizes the primary C-G/Db-Gb partitioning of the basic Z cell.

BAGATELLE NO. 11

The form is a clear-cut ABA-coda structure. The A section

features chords built of 4ths, a characteristic interval of

Hungarian folk tunes. These 4th chords represent a symmetrical

reordering of diatonic modal collections. But modal considerations

require the parallel 4ths to adjust quality and admit tritones,

which interrupt the absolute parallelism (e.g. the third right hand

chord). The tritones function as invariant segments between

diatonic (modal) and octotonic collections (juxtaposed explicitly

between the two hands in mm. 27-29), serving as pivots between the

two. The progression on the larger scale is from a diatonic

context, seen in the 4th chords, to an octotonic context,

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154

characterized by the double tritone Z cell (mm.55-56). Both

collections generate non-traditional chords and melodic

constructions.

BAGATELLE NO. 12

Although most of the harmonies are based on triads, and

elements of traditional diatonic melodic fabric exist, the

intensely chromatic idiom obscures any clear sense of tonal

function. The large-scale tonal plan centers around a B/C

dichotomy at the beginning and end, cresting at the tritone

relationship F/F# in mn. 22-25. But parallel movement of chords,

extended tertian chordal relationships and a slippery chromaticism

create a static harmonic atmosphere. Bartok's signature minor

7th/major 7th harmony (the "Stefi Geyer chord") subtly permeates

the harmonic fabric, although not explicitly presented in melodic

form. The architectural structure as well as the tonal plan is

palindromic:

Form: A B C B A

Tonal plan: B/C F/F# B/C

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155

BAGATELLE NO. 13

Despite the outwardly traditional appearance of the triadic

left hand accompaniment, Bagatelle No. 13 has nothing to do with

traditional tonal functions. The two triads Eb-minor and a-minor

represent two segments of an octotonic scale in polar opposition at

the tritone. Near the end of the piece they are brought into

closer juxtaposition (beginning m. 17), until they are finally

brought together in a statement of the complete octotonic

collection Eb-E-Gb-G-A-Bb-C-Db at mm. 23-24. This coincides with

the dramatic climax of the piece. The "Stefi Geyer motive" is

woven melodically into this autobiographical movement: the right

hand melody opens with a descending inversion of the major 7th

chord (A-Gb-D-Db); the climax of the piece is reached through the

ascending root position chord, transposed to Cb-F-Ab-C (this at the

point in the score where Bartok wrote "she dies.")

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156

BAGATELLE NO. 14

This is the most prograrrraatic of the Bagatelles. It is

labelled "Valse: Ma mie qui Danse" ("My dancing sweetheart).

Progression is achieved by the alternation and interaction of

diatonic segments (e.g. the major 7th chord and its accompaniment

in m. 1) and whole-tone segments (e.g. rnm. 18-26: G-A-B-C#-Eb) in

both the melodic and harmonic texture. These interactions,

occurring both as local events and as larger structure-defining

elements occur through the manipulation of invariant elements

common to both sets. This alternation is seen frcm the beginning,

where the left hand accompaniment alternates between a diatonic D-

major chord and a whole-tone chord F#-G#-Bb. The first held C# in

the melody (m. 9) extends the D major chord to a D-major-7th,

inparting a new incomplete pentatonic meaning to the whole-tone

collection of the accompaniment (e.g. m. 10). In addition the long

held notes of the melody beginning with the C# of m. 9 project a

pentatonic outline C#-F#~B-E-A. In this way, this C# (and its

perfect 5th F#) can be seen to function as invariant elements which

pivot between the D-major-7th chord, the whole-tone segment and the

pentatonic collection.

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Dictionary of Music and Musicians, II., 6th ed. Stanley
Sadie. London: MacMillan Publishers Ltd., 1980, pp. 197-225.

Stevens, Halsey. The Life and Music of Bela Bartok. New York:
Oxford University Press, 1953; rev. New York University
Press, 1964.

Suchoff, Benjamin. Guide to Bartok's Mikrokosmos. London:


Boosey and Hawkes, 1957, rev. 2/1971. Reprint New York: Da
Capo Press, 1983.

_________ . "Interpreting Bartok's Piano Works." Piano Quarterly


Newsletter 20 (Summer 1957), 15-18.

Szabolcsi, Bence. Bela Bartok, Leben und Werk. Leipzig: Verlag


Philipp Reclam Jun., 1961

Ujfalussy, Jozsef. Bela Bartok. Boston: Crescendo Publishing


Go., 1972.

_________ . "Bela Bartok— Werk und Biogrsphie." Studia


rnusicologica 23 (1981): 5-16.

_________ . "1907-1908 in Bartok's Sntwicklung." Studia


rnusicologica 24/3-4 (1982): 519-525.

Veress, Sandor. "Bluebeard's Castle." Tempo 13 (1949): 32-38.

Vinton, John. "Bartok on his Own Music." Journal of the American


Musicological Society 19 (1966): 232-243.

_________ . "Hints to the Printers from Bartok." Music and


Letters 49/3 (July 1968): 224-230.

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


162

Welch, Allison. "Approaches to Bartok's Source Materials With a


Focus on the Facsimile Edition of the Piano Sonata (1926)."
Master's thesis. The University of Texas at Austin, 1985.

Zsuffa, Joseph. Bela Balazs, The Man and the Artist. Berkeley
and Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1987.

SCORES

Bela Bartok. A fabol faraqott kiralyfi [The Wboden


Prince] Op. 13. Wien London: Universal Edition, 1924.

_________ • A Kekszakallu herceq va'ra [Duke Bluebeard's Castle]


Op. 11. Vocal score, Universal Edition, 1922.

_________ . Bight Improvisations on Hungarian feasant Songs, Op.


20. Boosey & Hawkes, 1939.

_________ • Ket portre (Two Portraits) Op. 5. Boosey & Hawkes,


1950.

_______ • Piano Music of Bela Bartok— The Archive Edition,


Series I, ed. Benjamin Suchoff. New York: Dover
Publications, 1981. [Includes Fourteen Bagatelles, Op. 6;
Two Elegies, Op. 8b; Ten Easy Pieces; Three Burlesques, Op.
8c; Four Piano Pieces (1903)

_________ • String Quartet No. 1, Op. 7. Boosey & Hawkes, 1939.

_________ • Tizennegy zonqoradarab (Fourteen Bagatelles) Oo. 6.


Boosey & Hawkes, 1959.

_________ • Violin Concerto No. 1. Boosey & Hawkes, 1959.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
RECORDINGS

Bartok, Be'la. Bartok Piano Music (Complete), Vol. III. Gytirgy


Sandor, pianist. Vox, SV3X 5427.

_________ . Fourteen Bagatelles, Op. 6 and Ten Easy Pieces. Bela


Bartok Complete Edition. Kornel Zempleni, pianist.
Hungaroton, LPX 1299.

Centenary Edition of Bartok's Records (Complete). Ed. Laszlo


Sotnfai, Zoltan Kocsis, Janos Sebestyen. Budapest:
Hungaroton, 1981. 2 vols.: LPX 12326-33 Mono and LPX 12334-
38 Mono.

PRIMARY SOURCES

Bartok, Bela. Fourteen Bagatelles. Second draft in the composer's


hand. Bartok Archive in Hcmossassa, formerly New Yorrk Bartok
Archive.

_________ . First edition with corrections in the composer's hand.


Rozsnyai, 1908.

Bela Bartok, Black Pocket-Book (Sketches 1907-1922). Facsimile


edition, ed. Laszlo Sornfai. Budapest: Editio Musica, 1967.

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .


VITA

Anne Victoria Fischer was born in Alice, Texas, on Fay 2,

1955, the daughter of Marguerite D. Fischer and Alfred 0. Fischer,

Sr. She attended Fair Park High School in Shreveport, Louisiana.

She graduated summa cum laude frcm Centenary College in Shreveport

in May 1975 with a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance,

and received the Master of Music degree in piano performance from

the University of Texas at Austin in May 1979. In 1983 she

completed the Master of Arts degree in musicology from the

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At both the

University of Texas and the University of North Carolina she was

employed as a piano teaching assistant. After a year's study in

Vienna, Austria on a Rotary International Fellowship, she returned

to the University of Texas to earn the Doctor of Musical Arts

degree in piano performance. From 1984-87 she operated the

Crawford-Fischer School of Music with a partner in Austin. She is

presently employed as Assistant Professor of Music at Bucknell

University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Permanent address: 6115 Bradford Drive


Shreveport, Louisiana 71119

This dissertation was typed by the author.

R e p ro d u c e d w ith p e rm is s io n o f th e c o p y rig h t o w n e r. F u rth e r re p ro d u c tio n p ro h ib ite d w ith o u t p e rm is s io n .