László Somfai Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Zenetudományi Intézet Budapest,Táncsics M. u. 7,HU–1014

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In spite of his mistrust in giving public explanations about his compositions, Bartók worked with great care on what we may call the narrative of a piece - the “spirit of the work” in his phrasing (spirit in the sense of the German Geist, the meaning, the characteristic quality). His “plans were concerned with the spirit of the new work and with technical problems (for instance, formal structure involved by the spirit of the work)” (Harvard Lectures, 1943). The best source to understand the narrative of multi-movement Bartók works is a close study of the creative process, primarily the sketches and the draft. The genesis of the Violin Concerto (1937-1938) reveals that to Zoltán Székely's request in 1936 Bartók first proposed a one-movement Konzertstück in variation form, i.e. the second movement. In the next step a full-size sonata-form piece emerging from the Tempo di verbunkos opening theme (as Bartók identified its character) of the present first movement could also have been an alternative one-movement Konzertstück of considerable size. Thus Bartók created two independent narratives: one for a fascinating variation, another for a big sonata-form movement written in a warmly melodic style with a special strategy of variations of the themes. Finally, because his violinist was expecting a regular three-movement concerto, by the addition of a finale he fulfilled the commission.

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Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae
Language English
Year of
changed title
Founder Magyar Tudományos Akadémia  
H-1051 Budapest, Hungary, Széchenyi István tér 9.
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 0039-3266 (Print)
ISSN 1588-2888 (Online)