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  • 1 Professor emeritus University of California, Berkeley
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In a memorable letter of 18 March 1926, brought to the attention of Anglophone scholars by David Schneider, Bartók’s second wife Ditta Pásztory described her reaction (obviously also reflecting that of her husband’s) to Stravinsky’s Piano Concerto just after listening to its Budapest premiere with the composer at the piano as being attracted to the machine music but missing in it what she called her “homeland.” In the present article I should like to show that the machine music described as intimidating is no more threatening than a sewing machine, because the inspiration for it was 192Os-style performances of Bach. Furthermore, despite his notorious rhetoric, Stravinsky too aimed at exaltation and catharsis. Parallels between the climaxes in Bartók’s First Piano Concerto and those in Stravinsky’s (especially in the first movement) might reveal the real kinship between the two works. At the same time, Bartók’s obviously different approach to Bach, testified in his few fragmentary recordings, may help us understand the differences of aesthetics between the two composers in their respective neoclassical style showcased in the most important genre for a concertizing pianist.

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