Powerful and playful
Fritz Reiner conducts Bartók -
'... agonised intensity of utmost eloquence.'
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'.
Copyright © 25 February 2004
Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt