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Bela Bartok: Composer in Context


It is astonishing that The Miraculous Mandarin’s scenes of urban decay and the pastoral of Evening with the Székelys, the almost brutal dissonances of the First Piano Concerto and the gentleness of Mikrokosmos could come from the pen of one man: Béla Bartók (1881-1945), one of the most celebrated composers of the twentieth century and one of the founding fathers of the discipline of ethnomusicology. Bartók’s contradictions do not end with the eclecticism of his musical style: this composer that many histories of music remember primarily as a “Hungarian nationalist” researched the folk music of Romanians and Slovaks as much as that of Hungarians, and wrote passionately about the “immense variety […] of melodies and melodic types” that had resulted from mixing of peoples.

The goal of this course is for students to become acquainted with Bartók’s musical and (to a lesser extent) scholarly output; to develop analytical skills; and to gain a sensitivity to the historical and cultural context in which he work and in which his music has been understood through the exploration of primary and secondary sources.

Regions Covered


When Taught

Fall 2009


Department of Central Eurasian Studies