Modern String Quartets
Bela Bartok was born in Hungary in 1881, where he lived up until the beginning of World War II. In 1940, he moved to the United States with his wife, before his death in 1945. Bartok was perhaps best known for fusing modern rhythms and harmonies with folk stylings from Eastern Europe and beyond.
And, actually, this interest in folk music, and the way he used it in his work, wasn’t just a mere hobby. Bartok was a notable ethnomusicologist, and he researched the music of his native Hungary, as well as Transylvania, Romania, North Africa, and beyond, throughout his lifetime.
It’s the music of Bulgaria that makes its way into Bartok’s Fifth String Quartet, with a third movement marked “in the Bulgarian style.” You’ll hear this style in the way Bartok handles the rhythm and meter… There’s a hefty, but kind of uneven, quality to the rhythms that becomes more complex as the movement carries on.
Bartok’s Fifth String Quartet also acts as a departure from previous, more dissonant ones. Composed in 1934, there is a more mellow quality to his harmonic language. It’s less harsh, but still chromatic, utilizing what the composer called “melodic new chromaticism.” Bartok even allegedly told a friend that he “wanted to show Schoenberg that one can use all 12 tones and still remain tonal.”
We’ll hear an April 2019 performance of Bartok’s String Quartet No. 5 with the Jerusalem Quartet, as well as the Telegraph Quartet performing Alban Berg’s String Quartet, Op. 3, from the 2019 Hayden’s Ferry Chamber Music Series. It’s a broadcast of String Quartets of the Modern Era on the next Arizona Encore.
Featured in this episode:
II. Adagio molto
III. Scherzo (Alla bulgarese)
V. Finale (Allegro vivace - Presto)
II. Mässige Viertel