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Mon, 15 Feb 2010 13:11:51 EST by admin, 104466 views
Music/Folklore paper by Luiten, Anton D. (all papers)
The Bridge That Never Was: Székely and Bartók and the First Performance of his Last Quartet
The lifelong friendship between the violinist Zoltán Székely and Béla Bartók began in the early 1920s when Székely was a student at the Academy of Music in Budapest and Bartok was a piano instructor there. In 1937, Székely joined the Hungarian String Quartet, and it seemed inevitable that the violinist and the composer would collaborate on a quartet together.
Even though the first performance of Bartok’s Fifth String Quartet was given by the Kolisch quartet in Washington (1935), it is the Hungarian String Quartet that have been attributed with the most authentic interpretation, as they had the privilege of rehearsing with the composer himself. In 1939, Bartok finished his last quartet and he had intended for the Hungarian Quartet to première the work. However, due to communication difficulties with Székely, the plan never materialized. It was the Kolisch quartet that once again premièred the work; this time in New York in 1941.
Although the Kolisch Quartet disbanded in the 1940s and a recording of the première does not exist, Bartok worked in America with this quartet prior to performance to ensure authenticity. However, many critics have stated the performance by the Hungarian Quartet most accurately captures the spirit of the work, not due to superior ensemble or technical capabilities, but simply by virtue of their ethnicity. This paper draws on the rehearsal notes taken in collaboration with the composer prior to the Kolisch première and compares them to the recording made in 1961 by the Hungarian Quartet in order to determine whether Bartok’s wishes were fully realized.
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