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Powerful and playful

Fritz Reiner conducts Bartók -
admired by

'... agonised intensity of utmost eloquence.'

Béla Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra. Chicago SO / Fritz Reiner. © 2000 Victor Company of Japan Ltd

Unfinished Journey by Yehudi Menuhin gives an unforgettable impression of Bartók as wartime American exile, already a victim of the leukaemia that was to kill him: 'Words were no longer necessary, even life was hardly necessary alongside the expression his music gave to life, to his own life and his convictions. Thus, exile made of him unaccommodated man, solitary, intense, requiring for material support only a bed, a table to write at and -- but this might be considered a luxury -- absolute quiet in which his inner concentration might bear fruit.'

He hated the pollution of New York and its seedy vulgarity. Yet America had a considerable influence on his style, which paradoxically became more open and less constricted than before. He was in hospital when he received a commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation for a work that became the five-movement Concerto for Orchestra. He was able to attend the Boston première conducted by Koussevitzky on 1 December 1944. In a programme note Bartók declared the title as 'explained by its tendency to treat the single orchestral instruments as in concertant or soloistic manner'.

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Copyright © 25 February 2004 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt


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