A laudation of Benjamin Rajeczky (1901-1989), Hungarian musicologist. Being a Cistercian, up to the 1970s he was not allowed to teach musicology in Budapest; he worked in the Ethnographic Museum, then in 1960-1970 in the Folk Music Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Rajeczky was an outstanding scholar of Gregorian chant as well as the folk music. His contribution to the study of the interaction between traditional music and chant strongly influenced the younger generation of scholars.
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.
On the occasion of Béla Bartók's 125th birthday a meeting of Bartók scholars from all over the world in the Budapest Bartók Archives is an exclusive event. Bartók's name in a way serves as a world passport, it demonstrates the great achievements of a small nation, a phenomenon that politicians abuse. Bartók was an exceptional man whose spirit radiates for those who come in contact with his art and life, with legacy, the manuscripts of his compositions and his ethnomusicological work. The international conferences dedicated to Béla Bartók's oeuvre and world do influence Bartók studies considerably. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences or directly the Bartók Archives have organized several conferences in the past forty-five years. For the 125th anniversary a call for papers on the internet was enough to set dozens of musicologists, including many ambitious young scholars form twenty countries in motion. This is a surprising experience even if if we acknowledge that the perspectives and the rank of Bartók studies considerably improved in the past decade.
The string quartets of Bartók, each written in a considerably different style, as a six-piece series became from the 1950s on an almost unrivaled standard of the 20th-century repertoire in this esteemed genre. One constituent of the quickly rising attractiveness and worldwide high-quality interpretation was that Bartók's notation for string quartet appeared to be much more precise, elaborated, and consistent than e.g. the notation of different work groups in his piano music. His idiomatic and innovative writing for strings in a way exercised greater impact on post-war composers than Bartók's compositional system. Based on recent source studies connected with the editorial work on the forthcoming two string quartet volumes of the Bartók critical edition I will discuss: (1) preliminary and revised concepts of the whole work or individual movements in string quartets nos. 1 and 3-6 on the evidence of sketches and the draft; (2) the significance of past and contemporary models and influences; (3) text corruption in no.1, notational problems in no. 2; (4) the source value of the four known contemporary recordings (1925 no. 2 by Amar-Hindemith, 1936 no. 1 by Pro Arte, 1936 no. 2 by Budapest, 1941 no. 5 by Kolisch Quartet).
The following article offers a short chronicle of the scholarship on Haydn in Hungary since the late 1950s, identifying some of the major contributions, he raises questions concerning possible further interconnections between the scholarly work of the researcher and the creative work of the performer.
The study revisits Haydn’s Erdődy Quartets with the premise that it was Haydn’s intention to copy the scores of three of the six — in D minor, B-flat and E-flat — as
for his own library, and there is no reason to assume that such scores of the other three once existed. While the compositional
tour de force
in the D minor is the opening movement, the slow movements of the B-flat and E-flat form a carefully crafted pair of compositional essays (although they exhibit other special features, such as the E-flat’s
renditions of different lengths). From the same motivic starting point, both in 3/4 time, the E-flat Adagio of the B-flat major quartet and the B major
of the E-flat quartet present diametrically opposed strategies of the learned style. The focus in the
is on the meter, pulsation, and rhythm (including subtleties such as
per arsin et thesin
entries), while in the oft-analysed
it is on the modulation and the surprising shifts of key.
The concept of the historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe series of the 1950s (the New Bach, Mozart, Haydn, etc., editions) is rightly questioned today. Not least because for the sake of making an impeccable text of a scholarly edition a certain kind of selfdefensive attitude of editors had priority over the interest of the intelligent user: the text should be eternally valid, the editor would not take the responsibility to answer justifiable questions of the performer. In case of 20th-century composers the source chain of a work from sketches to the printed and revised version(s) is not only much better documented than in the music of Baroque and Classical masters, but some composers (Schoenberg, etc.) explained their special use of performance instructions. In this respect Bartók is an intriguing and well-studied case, however, performers are often mislead by contradictory information or supposed authentic traditions. The forthcoming complete critical edition will offer two texts in each volume — not within the Critical Commentaries but before the score On Bartók’s Notation (partly standard, partly genre-oriented basic information), and Editorial Notes for the Performer (on each composition in the volume).
At the Bartók International Congress 2000 in Austin, Texas, I discussed basic questions related to the forthcoming Bartók thematic catalog with the temporary text of the entry BB 50 Fourteen Bagatelles as a sample. Thank to the interest of G. Henle Verlag, in addition to the continuation of the research on new items, basic reediting of the already written work entries have been carried out. The visual concept and typography of the forthcoming Bartók catalog, planned to be one large volume in English, is similar to Henle’s new Reger Werkverzeichnis. With the item BB 83 Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs op. 20 for piano as a sample, here I investigate problems of a catalog caused by the quickly growing number of reprints, new sheet music editions following the end of copyright protection of the composition in the USA, Japanese revised editions, and editions revised or first published by Peter Bartók.
Considering the appearance of the musical cryptogram “B-A-C-H” (B-flat– A–C–B -natural) in well-known works up to the time of his First String Quartet (1908/1909), Béla Bartók knew Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H, presumably also Schumann’s Sechs Fugen über den Namen Bach, and Reger’s Fantasia and Fugue on B-A-C-H for organ. Such compositions quoted the celebrated motive, typically as a starting point, with the relevant (aforementioned) pitches because the musical cryptogram in this way allowed immediate recognition of the reference to the name of the Leipzig composer. However, Bartók’s planned “B-A-C-H” quotation in the development section of the sonata-form second movement of his First Quartet was not a typical homage to Johann Sebastian Bach but rather a vision: a distorted reference to the symbolic “B-A-C-H” motive. Undoubtedly Bartók liked this episode. There is reason to believe that his friend Zoltán Kodály advised him to leave out the inorganic and distorted “B-A-C-H” allusion.