Concerning the reconstruction of the order of composition within a group of autographs, the most prominent research findings can be found in László Somfai's monograph, some of the Béla Bartók Complete Critical Edition [henceforth: BBCCE] volumes (especially vols. 24 and 41), and the introduction to the facsimile publications: see László SOMFAI, Béla Bartók Composition, Concepts, and Autograph Sources (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996); Klára MÓRICZ (ed.), Concerto for Orchestra (München: Henle and Budapest: Editio Musica, 2017) (= BBCCE, vol. 24); Yusuke NAKAHARA (ed.), Mikrokosmos (2) (München: Henle and Budapest: Editio Musica, ) (= BBCCE, vol. 41); Felix MEYER (ed.), Musik für Saiteninstrumente, Schlagzeug und Celesta: Facsimile des Partiturautographs und der Skizzen (Basel: Paul Sacher Stiftung, 2000). A direct predecessor of the present paper dealing with the micro-chronology in a narrower sense is, however, Somfai's chronological reconstruction of the sketches to the First Violin Sonata. He convincingly demonstrated that, for instance, folios 24v and 25r of the “Black Pocket Book” contain several chronologically separate layers even though the notation seems to be continuous; see László SOMFAI, “‘Written between the desk and the piano’: Dating Béla Bartók's sketches,” in A Handbook to Twentieth-Century Musical Sketches, ed. by Patricia HALL and Friedemann SALLIS (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 114–130. See also the reconstruction of a sketch to the third movement of String Quartet no. 2 by Vera LAMPERT: “Bartóks Skizzen zum III. Satz des Streichquartetts Nr. 2,” in Documenta Bartókiana, vol. 6 (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1977), 179–189.
The transcriptions are to be included in the Critical Commentary volume of the string quartet volumes: László SOMFAI, Zsombor NÉMETH and Yusuke NAKAHARA (eds.), String Quartets (2) (München: Henle and Budapest: Editio Musica, forthcoming) (= BBCCE, vol. 30).
Here it should be noted that I was not fully aware of this phenomenon when I researched the autographs of the Mikrokosmos. For one of a few possible cases related to no. 133 “Syncopation,” see Yusuke NAKAHARA (ed.), Mikrokosmos (2), 174–176.
Concerning case A-2 dealing with the fifth movement of the Fourth String Quartet, it might be fruitful to analyse the possible formal function of the missing section and compare it with Bartók's analysis, written at the request of Universal Edition as the introductory text for the Philharmonia pocket score editions; for the modern English translation of the analysis, see László SOMFAI and Zsombor NÉMETH (eds.), String Quartets (1) (München: Henle and Budapest: Editio Musica, 2022) (= BBCCE, 29). The apparent difference between the work-in-progress and the later analysis might be due to the lack of the fixed plan of the movement at the time of composition; for a similar case concerning Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, see Klára MÓRICZ, “Operating on a Fetus: Sketch Studies and Their Relevance to the Interpretation of the Finale of Bartók's ‘Concerto for Orchestra’,” Studia Musicologica 36/3–4 (1995), 461–476. In the case of the fifth movement of the Fourth String Quartet, however, it cannot be excluded that the formal plan could have been of secondary importance, in comparison with the essential concept of the movement that determines not the formal structure but the musical process.
BBA, BAN 494a–b, folio 1v. The source has already been transcribed by Vera Lampert and published in her article accompanied by a facsimile reproduction: see LAMPERT, “Bartóks Skizzen.” (The facsimile reproduction can be found at the end of the publication).
It should be noted that this sketch is written with halved note-values throughout, in comparison with the final version; thus, a half note in the sketch is equivalent to a whole note in the final version. At the same time, however, the time signature is in both versions. Consequently, the number of measures differs in the sketch and the final version: seven measures in the sketch might be equivalent to 14 measures in the final version. Here, however, the final version is shorter by one measure for an unknown reason.
The rhythm does not precisely correspond to the final version. In the sketch, the two parts play simultaneously but in the final version, the viola part joins the cello part later. Such difference, however, might be explained by the fact that Bartók merely intended these dyads as a reminder.
Ferenc BÓNIS, “Quotations in Bartók's Music: A Contribution to Bartók's Psychology of Composition,” Studia Musicologica 5/1 (1963), 371. The relationship between Bartók's string quartet and Debussy's opera is, however, recently questioned: see Péter TORNYAI, “Idézi-e Bartók Mélisande halálát a 2. vonósnégyesben?: Kísérlet egy bő fél évszázados pontatlanság korrekciójára” [Does Bartók quote Mélisande's death in his Second String Quartet?: An attempt to correct a semicentennial inaccuracy], Magyar Zene 58/2 (2020), 230–237.
SOMFAI and NÉMETH, String Quartets (1).
There are several problems concerning the status of the passage as a quotation. First, only the melody of the first five measures (mm. 88–92, according to the published score) largely corresponds to Pelléas. Consequently, it is possible that Bartók did not merely quote Pelléas but intended to write his own music based on it, by incorporating the elements derived from Pelléas. Second, it is also possible that not only this passage but also at least some part of the movement is related to Pelléas: for instance, Tornyai argues the possible relationship between interlocking major thirds in the string quartet (e.g., in mm. 68, 72, etc.) and Pelléas; see TORNYAI, “Idézi-e Bartók,” 233–236. To highlight the passage as the only quotation may obscure the possible relationship of other elements to Pelléas.
The original autograph of the Fourth String Quartet is currently located in the Paul Sacher Stiftung, Basel (CH-Bps), Béla Bartók Collection, deposited by Peter Bartók (hereinafter: PSS), shelfmark 62FSS1 (photocopy in the Budapest Bartók Archives). Bartók's autographs in PSS occasionally bear more than one pagination. The most important two in this manuscript are the following: (1) an incomplete series of handwritten pagination given by the composer himself and (2) an almost complete one stamped by the staff at the former New York Bartók Archive. For the sake of better orientation, the present paper only refers to the latter one. It should be noted that these paginations do not always follow the actual order of the pages; consequently, four pages of a bifolio may have non-consecutive page numbers.
In fact Bartók left five blank staves on page 27 without actually grouping these staves into a system, unlike two blank systems on page 28, where a brace is added at the beginning of each system. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the five staves on page 27 are also intended as a full system, with an additional blank staff that is usually left between adjacent systems.
The existence of this blank space has already been mentioned by Somfai: “Movement V is written on two bifolios …; it is a continuity draft with lots of shorthand notation and just some empty spaces on the last page to indicate the structure.” See László SOMFAI, “Bartók and the Paper-Studies: The Case of String Quartet no. 4,” Hungarian Music Quarterly 1/1 (1989), 10.
The fair copy is currently located in PSS, shelfmark 62FSFC1 (photocopy in the Budapest Bartók Archives).
It remains an open question concerning the chronological relationship between the extensive revisions and the space left on pages 27–28. It is naturally possible that the revisions written not in the system but in the blank spaces (i.e., on single blank staves between systems or in the margin) might have been done considerably later.
The draft is currently located in PSS, shelfmark 71FSS1 (photocopy in the Budapest Bartók Archives).
For a full description of the paper types, see SOMFAI, NÉMETH and NAKAHARA, String Quartets (2).
The draft (71FSS1) contains four folios of the 24-lined music paper (eight pages in total: pp. 34, 50–51, 53–54, 62, 64, and a blank page). Except for page 34 that eventually contains the final version of the draft of the fifth movement, all other pages have preliminary or side sketches that became the basis for the final version of the continuity draft. See also the examination of case C-2.
For instance, Bartók used paste-ups on several Mikrokosmos manuscripts, in order to make an easily readable final version ready for use at concert performances as well as at the publisher. See, for instance, Yusuke NAKAHARA, “Genesis and the ‘Spirit’ of Bartók's Mikrokosmos” (PhD diss., Budapest: Liszt Academy of Music, 2020), 99–100.
The Fifth String Quartet was commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge in June 1934, and the deadline for its completion was set as December of the same year. As usual, however, Bartók had time for the composition only during his summer vacation; consequently, he had only one month. For the deadline, see a letter by Carl Engel to Bartók, June 4, 1934 (PSS, PB, BB–LIBCONGR; photocopy in the Budapest Bartók Archives); see also SOMFAI and NÉMETH, String Quartets (1) concerning the genesis of the work.
In the published score, the cello part slightly deviates from the strict canon: in measure 60, the first three notes are D♯‒E‒F, instead of F‒E‒D♯ (i.e., the melody does not descend but ascends; see also mm. 62 and 64). This is, however, the result of an intentional revision by Bartók. It is possible to observe the traces of revision on page 25.
It can be considered a similar issue that Bartók made some preliminary sketches to some sections of the first movement, where an inverted form of an early part of the movement appears (see pp. 54–53, and 56; here the order of pp. 53–54 is reversed, because the notation continues from p. 54 to p. 53).
Worthy of attention is the fact that in a part of the preliminary sketch on page 53, Bartók meticulously marked the vertical alignment of the four parts by vertical lines. The difficulty in notation can be underlined by the fact that there is probably a slip of the pen in the second violin part, where he might have written the part erroneously, by inadvertently omitting an eighth note; as a result, a considerable part of the third and fourth measures was shifted rightwards.
The partial use of the hand-written staff in the margin should not be regarded as strong proof, as Bartók occasionally did so when he did not want to break the content of a measure at the end of a system. However, considering that it is a rather time-consuming task to write staves in the margin, he might not have done so if there had been available space in the next system, especially when he had rather limited time for composition.
The issue of exchanging voices is usually related to the “re-orchestration” of a short section. See, for instance, page 41 of the draft of the Fifth String Quartet (mm. 411ff. of mov. V), where the upper two parts are exchanged for some reason, probably in order to assign the higher register to the first violin. Nevertheless, there may be several exchanges of the parts that may serve as a proof of the irregular order of composition.
Concerning the difficulty in interpreting the notation in the margin, see a draft page from the Second Violin Concerto (PB 76VPS1, page 1); the page can be found in the form of a facsimile reproduction in an article by Somfai; see László SOMFAI, “Diplomatic Transcription versus Facsimile with Commentaries: Methodology of the Bartók Edition,” in De editione musices: Festschrift Gerhard Croll, ed. by Wolfgang GRATYER and Andrea LINDMAYR (Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 1992), 79–97. Somfai calls the readers' attention to the fact that the passage of the solo violin written in the margin is neither a second thought nor a later insertion, as there is a preliminary sketch that already contains the violin theme.
Concerning the genesis of the Fifth String Quartet, see footnote 20.
It is likely that page 23 was clipped to page 24, based on the trace of iron rust on page 25 (the other side of p. 24) and pages 22 and 26 (the adjacent pages of the folio containing pp. 24–25). Note that page 24 contains two kinds of continuity draft. One is an abandoned draft belonging to the original version of the Scherzo da capo, written from the beginning of the page and occupying about one system and two-thirds of a second system. The other is the part of the final version of the Scherzo da capo, written directly after the abandoned draft until the end of the page.
It should be noted that Bartók did not cross out the replaced section on page 24. Considering the fact that he did not add pagination to page 23, it is likely that this replacement took place at the very last moment of the draft process. It is even possible that Bartók made this replacement during the preparation of the fair copy when he no longer needed to cross out the discarded section and to paginate the draft page for the sake of his own orientation. Notably, there is a contrary case: another page (p. 29) contains a replacement, but this page bears a remark related to the orientation (“27. laphoz” [to p. 27]; note that this refers to Bartók's own pagination and the current page 28 bears his page number “27”). On page 28, the replaced section was eventually crossed out, and then a reference was added concerning where the valid version can be found. For the pagination issue of the source, see SOMFAI, NÉMETH and NAKAHARA, String Quartet (2).
There are some additional examples within the draft of the Fifth String Quartet: e.g., pages 20, 21, and 37. All these pages contain a replacement of the material within the continuity draft.
In the present paper, I occasionally refer to the asymmetric meter of this movement as “Bulgarian rhythm,” an authentic term derived from Bartók's usage; see his essay, “The So-called Bulgarian Rhythm” in Béla Bartók Essays, ed. by Benjamin SUCHOFF (London: Faber & Faber, 1976), 47. Note that modern ethnomusicology prefers the term “aksak” instead of “Bulgarian rhythm,” and Timothy Rice offers the term Bulgarian “meter” instead of “rhythm” as a more precise expression; see Timothy RICE, “Béla Bartók and Bulgarian Rhythm,” in Bartók Perspectives, ed. Elliott ANTOKOLETZ et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 197. However, it is justifiable to use the authentic term “Bulgarian rhythm” in relation to Bartók's own compositions as a particular case within “aksak.”
Concerning the term “soft part,” see SOMFAI, Béla Bartók: Composition, 283. According to Somfai's explanation, a “soft part” means a passage of “repeated figures, between two themes, or in the coda,” and there Bartók sometimes varied the number of repetitions.
The problem is probably best represented by Mikrokosmos no. 153 “Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm (6).” This piece contains six measures solely consisting of repeated notes (mm. 69–74). In fact, Bartók gradually increased the number of repetitions from one to six. Nevertheless, he seems not to have followed the published score at concerts, as he played five measures on the recording instead of six. For details, see NAKAHARA, Mikrokosmos (2).
See, for instance, an unusual instruction “rep. ad libitum” for measures 37–38 in Mikrokosmos no. 103 “Minor and Major,” where the number of repetitions of these two measures is left to the performers' liberty. As a related case, see also measure 80 in the “Musettes” from the suite Out of Doors (BB 89, 1926), where Bartók marked the second beat as “due o tre volte ad lib.” [two- or three-times ad libitum].
In fact, page 19 contains a revised form of the Trio; consequently, the function of page 19 itself should be regarded as a “replacement” of the original version of the Trio (on pp. 18, 67, etc.), as is discussed in the case B-0. Nevertheless, this does not affect the relationship between systems 1–2 on page 19. These systems are intended to be continuous, regardless of the existence of a blank space at the end of system 1.
As the original version of the Trio is written in a different tonality, the ostinato passage is a whole tone higher than in the final version. However, it should be regarded as a remarkable difference that the original Trio completely lacked the sustained dyad that produces a Bartókian major-minor chord together with the ostinato passage. Here, it deserves a brief remark regarding a statement by Marcia Beach. According to her, the C2/A1 dyad, implying the tonality of F, had already existed at the end of the Scherzo section and preceded the original Trio; then, later, the dyad eventually triggered the revision of the tonality of the Trio from G to F; see Marcia BEACH, “Bartók's Fifth String Quartet: Studies in Genesis and Structure” (PhD diss., Rochester, NY: Eastman School of Music, 1988), 68–69 and 72. However, it should be mentioned that in the last three measures of the Scherzo the viola part originally had a whole rest instead of a dyad, and this version is followed by the original Trio. Thus, the dyad did not affect the choice of the tonality of the revised Trio but, conversely, is directly chosen due to the tonality of the revised Trio and added in order to make a smooth connection between the Scherzo and Trio sections.
In the score, the MM numbers are written in smaller values so that an ordinary metronome should indicate the tempo: = 46 and = 120. The calculated values of the MM number are presented here for easier comparison.
It is, however, possible that at the beginning of the Trio the transition might have originally been intended to consist of not five but four measures. The width of the second and third measures is too narrow, even if they only have a simile symbol. It seems that these measures originally constituted a single measure (their total width is largely equivalent to the width of the fifth measure that also has a single simile symbol). If this is the case, Bartók introduced the simile symbols at a later moment of the draft process.
A possible alternative interpretation is that Bartók decided to use a more regular phrase structure made of binary divisions (2+2, 4+4, etc.) that most performers can easily perceive rather than irregular ones. Concerning a possible “concession” to the performers, see also below the discussion of case B-3. It is, however, notable that Bartók occasionally used an irregular phrase structure in a piece in Bulgarian rhythm; for instance, see NAKAHARA, “Genesis and the ‘Spirit’,” 339–344.
Concerning the extension of the number of repeated measures, it is possible that Bartók imagined different tempos for the original and final version of the Trio, and the different tempos might have required different numbers of repetition. On page 67 in the draft, there is a calculation of the tempo based on his measurement that gives slower tempo (530 per eighth) than the final version (600 per eighth).
The draft of the Sixth String Quartet is currently located in PSS, shelfmark 79FSS1 (photocopy in the Budapest Bartók Archives).
The fair copy of the Fifth String Quartet is currently located in the Library of Congress, Music Division, Washington, DC (US-Wc), shelfmark ML 29c B29 (photocopy in the Budapest Bartók Archives).
Even though the draft lacks the indication of the time signature at the beginning of the Scherzo da capo (and occurs after a temporary change to in m. 11), it is very likely that Bartók intended the asymmetric meter as in the first Scherzo section.
Concerning this phenomenon, see Bartók's letter to Rudolf Kolisch, quoted below (case C-4).
It is, however, enigmatic that Bartók used a different time signature in mm. 43–46: instead of Even if this exceptional time signature is not an error but expresses Bartók's specific intention, the argument of the present paper may not be affected. Regardless of the indicated time signature, the music of mm. 41 and 48–51 (in ) is quite similar to that of mm. 43–46.
This hypothesis could be supported by the additional piece of evidence that the current measure 47 and part of measure 48 might have originally constituted a measure with 10 eighth notes if these measures were written continuously. In a section written in the so-called Bulgarian rhythm, Bartók never applied a time signature that contains a greater number of beats than the basic meter of the section.
When Bartók finalized page 23, it seems that a connection issue was caused by the shift of bar-line by three eighth notes. It appears that Bartók solved the problem with minimal effort, by lengthening three quarter notes in measures 52–53 to dotted quarter notes.
It can be observed in the facsimile reproduction that there might have been some problem concerning the cello part in the previous measures (mm. 46–47); however, this problem might not have affected the irregular order of composition. It is likely that Bartók first wrote the leading part (here, the first violin) and then filled the accompanimental parts somewhat later; indeed, there are no similar problems in the leading parts in the previous measures. In this case, Bartók might have simply made a mistake when he wrote the cello part.
The revision in the second violin part is irrelevant here, as it merely suggests that Bartók originally intended to write the first comes in the second violin part instead of the viola part.
The parts are paired by the instruction “col I” or “col vla” with a wavy line following it.
See, for instance, the autograph fair copy of Mikrokosmos no. 147 “March” on ordinary music paper (PSS, PB 59PS1, pp. 4–5). This autograph is written in the inner side of a bifolio, and while Bartók consistently used the left margin on page 4, he did not do so on page 5. It seems that he might have tried to write as much as possible on page 4 so that the inside pages of a bifolio should accommodate the entire piece. When he started writing on page 5, he certainly realized that there was enough space; consequently, he did not use the margin and notated the rest of piece in a slightly more spacious manner.
In fact, there is a preliminary sketch containing the elaboration of the motif in a four-part canon on page 59, staves 5–8. This sketch, however, differs in several aspects. The voices regularly enter from top to bottom, and the intervals between the voices are the following: a perfect fifth, a perfect fifth, and a major sixth. When Bartók drafted measures 43ff., he might have been able to rely on this sketch to some extent.
Concerning the paper type, see footnote 17.
For instance, see the case of the Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta in the introduction by Felix Meyer to the facsimile edition: MEYER (ed.), Musik für Saiteninstrumente, 44–45. The use of three different types of paper is graphically represented in a two-page-wide diagram.
For instance, the sketches related to the first movement can be found on pages 53–54 and 56. See also footnote 18.
It is, however, also possible that other bifolios of 18-lined paper had already formed gatherings, and a single folio of the 24-lined paper was the only available folio at Bartók's hand. For the verification of this hypothesis, it is necessary to reconstruct the exact paper structure by a close examination of the original manuscript at PSS.
If this is the case, the dynamics on page 34 were elaborated at a later stage of composition. Another possible (yet somewhat problematic) interpretation is that at least a part of page 34 was already prepared as a preliminary sketch with dynamics, and later incorporated into the main part of the continuity draft. In fact, other preliminary sketches also contain a canonic phrase that Bartók sometimes worked out in advance (see pp. 50, 59, 60, and 62). The fact that the top two parts on page 34 originally began with a whole rest supports this possibility (i.e., at least the beginning of p. 34 was written without having fixed the previous measures on p. 33). It is nevertheless problematic that the theme on page 34 is already written with flats, whereas Bartók seems to have notated this theme with sharps on page 59 (assumedly the first notation of the theme), and, moreover, on page 33 where he changed the notation enharmonically, with flats instead of sharps, by a verbal instruction “át b-be” [rewrite with flats].
A similar explanation has already been offered in relation to the previous case C-1 (see footnote 48), where the first violin might have been written throughout, and then the lower three parts were added later.
Concerning the possibility that Bartók might have had a different formal plan, see also the interpretation by Beach; BEACH, “Bartók's Fifth String Quartet,” I, 109–110 and II, 70. It is, however, problematic that she reconstructed a less convincing original version in which the upper two parts are fragmentary: for instance, the descending motif of the first violin (doubled by the second violin) in measure 62 is suddenly followed by four blank measures, without the concluding note of the motif.
In the list, the terms of the formal analysis are borrowed from Bartók's own analysis written at the request of Gaston Verhuyck-Coulon (impresario of the Pro Arte Quartet) for the December 13, 1935 performance in Marseilles. For the annotated modern English translation of the analysis, see SOMFAI and NÉMETH, String Quartets (1).
The special status of the fourth occurrence may require some explanation. In this case, the motif is preceded not by repeated notes but by an F/E dyad in half note, and the half note opens the new system. Here, however, different from other occurrences, the half note is an integral part of the motif, in order to better prepare a varied form of the motif that is in inversion and has an E upper pedal point as an additional note.
For the term “soft part,” see footnote 32.
Concerning the fifth occurrence of the motif on page 10 (where the location of the motif and the beginning of a system do not coincide), Bartók later inserted several repeated notes in the margin.
For instance, see pages 10–12 in the draft of the first movement of the Fifth String Quartet.
For some possible exceptions, see cases A-3 and C-2.
Concerning the formal plan, see Bartók's own analysis in SOMFAI and NÉMETH, String Quartets (1).
Bartók to Rudolf Kolisch, October 23, 1934, private collection, photocopy in Budapest Bartók Archives. It should be noted, however, that this remark was made in relation to the notational problem concerning the first movement of the Fifth String Quartet, where Bartók introduced dotted bar-lines within regular ones to unambiguously mark the metric accents that do not coincide with the actual bar-lines. In the first movement of the Fourth String Quartet, he usually used the marking for up- and down-bowing to mark figures in up- or downbeats.
In the reproduction, however, only the trace of scratching-out can be observed through the existence of something similar to white lines that break pre-printed staff lines.
This is the direct proof that Bartók stopped writing the draft at the first measure of the third system, even before drawing the bar-line at the end of the measure. It is not likely that he continued writing the draft somewhat further and only later made the measure coherent.
Cf. case C-1, where the leading first violin part might have been written throughout.
Essentially all the previous cases have a new beginning (that may also have an additional function as a point of arrival) after some blank space; the only exception is case A-1 that “continues” the Pelléas phrase.
For a detailed examination of the sketch, see SOMFAI, Béla Bartók: Composition, 155–158.
Here I refer to the analytical terms applied in Bartók's own analysis (see footnote 4).
For instance, it is remarkable that what seems to be the “proto-motif” of the movement is altogether missing until the very end of the sketch. See SOMFAI, Béla Bartók: Composition, 156–158. I borrowed the term “proto-motif” from János KÁRPÁTI, Bartók's Chamber Music (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press, 1994), 343.
In the final version, 10 semitones appear in four parts; nevertheless, they constitute a sound mass rather than a chord in the traditional sense.
While my interpretation might be more valid for the sketch version, the musical process of the final version is described better by Kárpáti, who recognizes the reconstruction process made of the struggle between “the shivering trills and the proto-motif” stepping into the foreground. See KÁRPÁTI, Bartók's Chamber Music, 347.
Based on the final version of the movement, the recapitulation indeed begins from this very pitch F (but an octave higher).
For an analytical interpretation of this passage, see also Elliott ANTOKOLETZ, The Music of Béla Bartók: A Study of Tonality and Progression in Twentieth-Century Music (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984), 231. It is striking that he recognized the octatonic collection in this passage (C–D–D♯–E♯–F♯–G♯–[A]–B). It is, however, a pity that he failed to include the last note, B♭, that actually falls outside of the supposed octatonic collection.
For instance, see my conference paper “ 感と理性の狭間で ── バルトークの《ミクロコスモス》の作曲過程に対する一考察” [Between the Intuitional and Rational Compositional Approaches: On the Compositional Process of Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos], a paper read at the annual conference of The Musicological Society of Japan on November 13, 2021. The paper deals with the case of Mikrokosmos no. 125 “Boating,” where Bartók had to revise a phrase repeatedly until he was finally able to free himself from the compositional system he had established.
In fact, he frequently used various kinds of musical shorthand or verbal remarks to indicate repeats and doubling of parts. Besides the usual simile symbols indicating repetition, Bartók frequently used a horizontal wavy line following “col [the name of an instrument]” meaning that the given part plays the same material as the named instrument. It can, however, be occasionally observed that he did not give any reference concerning how the missing notes should be complemented. One of the best examples is the sketch to the second movement of the Second Piano Concerto, where he wrote only the outer voices of the six-part string harmony consisting of perfect fifths. For the facsimile of the sketch, see SOMFAI, Béla Bartók: Composition, 67.
It has been discussed by Somfai that a theme in the previous composition inspired a new theme for a new composition; for instance, see SOMFAI, “‘Written Between the Desk and the Piano’”. Such relationship can also be found elsewhere, even among the short pieces written one after another; see NAKAHARA, “Genesis and the ‘Spirit’ of Bartók's Mikrokosmos,” 204–251.
It seems necessary to call attention to a specific problem concerning the methodology of the transcription of the manuscript. If a scholar tries to reconstruct the content of the manuscript in a transcription, it is necessary to consider whether the given section originally constituted a continuous passage. This is especially important when transcribing a continuity draft by Bartók. Because the content of the continuity draft is almost identical to the final version, the scholars' attention falls not on the transcription of the actual layer of the draft but on the reconstruction of the compositional process and how the composer developed his idea through (possibly) a lot of revisions. However, if scholars ignore the possible break between the sections, they may connect the phrases that had not been written in that order and might produce a version that never existed.
Bartók used the term “the spirit of the work” only once in his life, in one of the lectures held at Harvard University; see his “Harvard Lectures” in Béla Bartók Essays, 376. He neither gave a precise definition of it nor described it clearly; nevertheless, it is frequently possible to observe the existence of such a “spirit” affecting the structure of the work, even in the very first works such as the symphonic poem Kossuth (BB 31, 1903), Scherzo op. 2 (BB 35, 1904), and so on. See, for instance, László SOMFAI, “Invention, Form, Narrative in Béla Bartók's Music,” Studia Musicologica 44 (2003), 291–303.