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Collection The Moldenhauer Archives - The Rosaleen Moldenhauer Memorial

Béla Bartók's Working Method in Dealing with Proofs for His Violin Concerto (1937-1938)

Bartók himself once said to the writer of these lines that his artistic development might be likened to a spiral: to deal with the same problems on an ever rising level, with correspondingly rising success--this seemed to him the guiding principle of his development.1

- Bence Szabolcsi

The validity of Béla Bartók's quoted statement--"to deal with the same problems on an ever rising level, with correspondingly rising success"--becomes evident in a particularly convincing manner from the structural affinity of his two violin concertos: the one composed in 1907-1908 (not performed or published during the composer's life), and the accomplished masterpiece written thirty years later, 1937-1938.2

Totally different in quality, these two works are related in kind through the determining role of the variation principle. Bartók composed the concerto from his early years for Stefi Geyer (1888­ 1956), the beautiful and gifted violinist, with whom he had fallen in love. His original concept of the work called for three movements using variants of a "love chord of four notes": character variations reflecting the nature of the beloved. Next to that of the "heavenly" ideal image, Bartók wanted to sketch the "humorous" portrait of a "tempestuous" and an "indifferent, cool and silent" Stefi Geyer.3

In the end, only the "ideal image" within this total concept was realized in the opening movement of a concerto. It was subsequently published as the first part of the orchestral work Deux Portraits, op. 5. Supposed rests of the planned remaining movements, in the form of variants of upon the "love motif," can be traced in Bartók's works ranging from Fourteen Bagatelles, Ten Easy Piano Pieces, Two Elegies, String Quartet No. 1 to the opera A kékszakállú herceg vára (Duke Bluebeard's Castle) and a number of others.

This, however, does not mean that he had given up his early violin concerto. Rather, he fundamentally altered the structural design of the work. He rejected the traditional three-movement pattern and supplanted it by a pattern of paired movements. "One day this week," he wrote to Stefi Geyer on December 21, 1907, "I was impressed, as if by a sudden inspiration, with the seemingly unarguable fact that your piece must consist only of two movements, two contrasting images--that is all. Now I am surprised that I did not discover this truth earlier."4

The change in Bartók's conception suggests the influence of Franz Liszt and his "Faustian dramaturgy." This dramaturgical scheme, whose most striking expression can be observed in Liszt's "Faust" Symphony, opens a new chapter in the history of variation. The outer movements of this work--"Faust" and "Mephisto"--represent the portraits of two contrasting characters, drawn with the same musical material. The artistic intent was clear: it was a matter of showing the simultaneous existence of Good and Evil within ourselves, pointing out that a struggle of the two principles remains essentially a constant incentive. (We might add here that the "Faust" Symphony opens with the first dodecaphonic theme in history.)

Bartók discovered in the Faustian dramaturgy--applying the term subsequently in order to point out the idea of unity within contrasts-­ new form-giving elements. The first work generated by this discovery was thus the two-movement violin concerto. And when, for various reasons, he decided against publication of the two concerto movements, he completed the first movement, on the basis of the same dramaturgical considerations, with the orchestrated version of a piano work composed on the same love motif as a second movement--resulting in the Deux Portraits, op. 5. In his Second Piano Concerto (1930­1931), Bartók combined the principle of unity in the outer movements with those of inversion of themes and symmetry of the whole form. The finale is in this case a quasi recapitulation of the opening movement, with its themes recurring inverted; the first and third sections of the slow movement surround a Presto (thus the form of the entire work may be described as A B C B A'). In the great Violin concerto the principle of variation encompasses the total composition. The "Faustian" linking of the first and third movements (pairing of contrasted characters through the same thematic material) is here rounded out by an independent variation movement (the second) to form an organic entity.

Brief mention should be made of another principle by which the two violin concertos are related: the principle of synthesis. In the earlier work, a deeper identity of "heavenly" and "terrestrial" characters is suggested through the same "Ur-motif," whereas musical spheres more distant from one another are united in the later violin concerto. The totally integrated language of its first movement arises from the joining of a stylized Verbunkos melody (a derivative of Hungarian Romanticism) with a tonal twelve-tone theme.

According to annotations in the score, Bartók composed his "great" violin concerto between August 1937 and December 31, 1938, on commission from the violinist Zoltán Székely, Bartók's chamber music partner who at that time was living in Holland. Though given by the composer himself, these dates can only be accepted with a certain reservation. The first musical idea for the violin concerto dates back to 1936 or even earlier. Conversely, Bartók would not have been able to begin the actual composition of the work by August of 1937: apparently only the known sketches for the first and second themes of the opening movement were written down at that time.

No plan for a work of concerto dimensions seems to have been connected with the "Ur-idea," sketched in 1936 or earlier. Rather, it was the request coming from the performer which apparently gave the composer the thought of applying the existing idea to the form of a work for violin and orchestra.

György Kroó was the first to give an account of Bartók's intention to add, during the summer of 1936, to his Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta a further orchestral work, made up of shorter movements.5 It was a plan the composer never realized, despite existing sketches; Kroó conjectured, rightly so, that these sketches were subsequently applied to the violin concerto.6

The preserved documentation, though still dispersed and published only in fragmentary form, nevertheless makes it possible to construct an outline chronology for the genesis of the entire work. On July 14, 1936, Bartók gave a provisional promise of a new work for a first performance in Baden-Baden. A letter of July 24 to Universal Edition of Vienna, mentioning concrete details with regard to scoring and form, could refer only to this Baden-Baden work: "I am planning also another orchestral piece (normal orchestration in pairs of instruments, a series of shorter movements)." From a letter of September 1, 1936, again to Universal, we gather that "sketches have likewise been made"7 for the mentioned further orchestral work. But this evidently was Bartók's last statement concerning the plan of this composition; it was not to be mentioned in any later correspondence. What event was it that intervened?

The event, doubtless, was the receipt of Zoltán Székely's letter of August 10, 1936, in which he asked Bartók to write a violin concerto for him as a commissioned work.8 This commission evidently guided Bartók's interest, after the passing of three decades, again to the genre of the violin concerto. On September 26, 1936, in complying with his wishes, Universal sent him a copy each of Alban Berg's, Kurt Weill's, and Karol Szymanowski's violin concertos for study purposes.9 Bartók's consent--to compose a new work without nearer determination--is to be read in his letter of October 17, 1936 to the violinist.9a The composer's initial suggestion of a one-movement concert piece in the form of variations was declined by the violinist, who desired a concerto in the customary form of three movements.10 In his two studies, László Somfai showed convincingly that Bartók's conjectured onemovement work essentially would have been an enlarged version of the one planned for Baden-Baden; and that, on the other hand, the conjectured work could be identified only with the middle movement of the later violin concerto.11 When Bartók decided to carry out the scheme desired by Székely, he extended the variation principle--the primary form-giving element in the early violin concerto--to the entire new composition. The sketch of 1936 (or earlier) became the theme for the slow middle movement. The additional preserved sketches--to which we will return below--were used for the fast opening movement (and thus also the finale serving as a recapitulation).12

Bartók's original intention was to work on two commissions during the summer of 1937. The first was the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, the premiere of which had been scheduled for January 16, 1938, for an anniversary concert planned by the Basel section of the International Society for New Music. The other one was the violin concerto, whose elaboration the composer could not take on until after the completion of the sonata. The Basel commission reached him relatively late, in the spring of 1937; Bartók's provisional confirming answer went to Paul Sacher on May 24. After the summer vacation, leaving his family in Austria, Bartók returned to Budapest alone on July 17, in order to work there in complete isolation. He sketched on the two sides of a leaf themes for both the sonata and the violin concerto, a fact which makes it likely that the sketches were made at about the same time. It was for this reason that Bartók could subsequently note July 1937 as a date for the inception of the sonata and August 1937 for that of the concerto. The problem was that, in August 1937, he could not turn to the actual composition of the violin concerto because he had not completed the sonata.

On August 21 the composer wrote to his elder son Béla: "I am working now again on a 'commission,' and again for Basel (involved, this time, is a piece of chamber music). I hope I can finish it. There is another commissioned work (a violin concerto), but I really don't know how I can finish that one; it will have to go into the fall."13

By September 2, the sonata was still not quite completed, as is documented in Bartók's letter to Sacher: "I am glad to be able to report that the planned work--my choice became a quartet for two pianos and two groups of percussion instruments--is almost ready..."14 Another letter, however, written on September 6 by the composer to his former student Sándor Albrecht in Bratislava, refers to the sonata as a work still in progress: "The new piece, on which I am now working, is a 'Quartet' for two pianos and two groups of percussion instruments. Aside from this, I should write a violin concerto."15

Zoltán Székely's September 20, 1937,16 visit to the composer in Budapest evidently resulted in a fresh impulse for the work on the violin concerto. And, though from September to the beginning of the year 1938 Bartók could not concentrate upon his work without disturbance, he was at least spared from concertizing abroad. Bartók's October 9, 1938, letter to Annie Müller-Widman, a devotee of his in Basel, shows that the major part of the composition remained for the summer of 1938. During the summer, wrote Bartók, he had worked hard in order to finish the violin concerto and to write Contrasts, a trio promised to Joseph Szigeti and Benny Goodman.17 The score of Contrasts shows September 24, 1938, as the finishing date of composition. On September 5, 1938, Bartók sent to the "King of Swing" his firm promise to compose a new work for him. It is to be assumed that this promise was given only after completion of the sketch for the violin concerto.

The concerto's instrumentation covered several months, interrupted in November by a concert tour through Holland and Belgium. During this tour, Bartók apparently made changes in the composition. The composer and pianist Géza Frid, a former Bartók student living in Holland (who assisted Székely in his study of the work before the first performance) supplied important details about Bartók's last-minute decisions: "

The final measures of the violin concerto, incidentally, were completed by Bartók here in Amsterdam, at my Bechstein piano. This finishing and not only this one, had troubled the composer. He chose then from among various possibilities the one known today. I thereupon made bold to suggest a two-note upbeat to be added to the beginning of the first theme. Bartók only smiled; several years later, however, after the work's appearance, I looked at the score and saw that he had accepted my suggestion."18

Violin Concerto No. 2.

Violin Concerto No. 2.

Bartók returned to Budapest from this concert tour on November 21. The score of the violin concerto was completed on the last day of the year. At the beginning of March 1939, he had the opportunity to go through the whole work with Székely in Paris. Bartók was unable to attend the premiere of March 23 in Amsterdam, by the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Willem Mengelberg with Zoltán Székely as soloist. He did not hear an orchestral rendition of his work until four years later when Tossy Spivakovsky, the soloist for the American premiere in Cleveland on January 21, 1943, with a repeat on January 23, performed the work on October 14, 15, and 17 in the same year with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Artur Rodzinsky.

The Violin Concerto was to become the one among Bartók's symphonic works in his lifetime that was most frequently performed in the United States. Between January 21, 1943, and August 11, 1945, it saw twelve performances in such cities as Cleveland, New York, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Hollywood. What doubtless contributed to this popularity was Yehudi Menuhin's decision, after Spivakovsky's success, to take the work into his repertoire. Among the conductors who, after Rodzinsky, took a special interest in the work were Dimitri Mitropoulos, Antal Dorati, Fritz Reiner, and Desiré Defauw.19

The scores for these performances were photographic copies made from Bartók's autograph, added to which were handwritten errata sheets. Bartók's new publisher after 1939, Boosey & Hawkes, London, placed the work on the list of forthcoming publications immediately after the Amsterdam premiere. But the outbreak of the Second World War delayed the production for years. The piano reduction did not appear until April of 1941, and the full score not until 1946. Bartók was still able to read proofs for both, but he did not live to see the publication of the printed orchestral score. In the long chain of sources for the Violin Concerto--from the first thematic sketch to the printing of the orchestral score--the proofs for the latter form the penultimate link. At the same time they represent the last musical document in which the composer himself was involved within the genesis of the work and in which his handwriting is to be found. This fact and the fact that the handcorrected proofs for Bartók's later works are for the most part lost assign special historical value to the complete corrected proofs for the Violin Concerto, which were located and acquired by Hans Moldenhauer and bequeathed by him to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In order to obtain a clear picture of Bartók's corrections, we have compared the proof sheets which he himself reviewed with the copy submitted for production--a copy of the autograph score--as well as with the printed orchestral score (Boosey & Hawkes 9003).

What insights do these comparisons afford us?

--By reference to other documents, we are able to reconstruct phases of the process by which the orchestral score was published.

--They also provide a glance into Bartók's workshop and give witness to its perfect order and high degree of organization. Without exaggeration, we venture the claim that even Bartók's style of correction reflects his uncompromising character.

The proof of the engraved orchestral score, of which Bartók received a copy, was based upon a copy of the photographic reproduction of his autograph score, revised by him, as well as upon certain written instructions which Boosey & Hawkes had transmitted to the engraver. On May 29, 1939, Bartók had sent a copy each of the photographic reproduction of the piano score and orchestral score from Budapest to the publishers in London.20 As early as November 5, 1939, the composer could return the revised proofs of the piano score and of the solo violin part to London. These were followed two days later by the return of "printer's copies" for both piano and full score.21

No correspondence between publisher and composer with regard to the Violin Concerto has survived from the year 1940--the time of Bartók's two journeys from Europe to America with all its complications of preparation for his relocation in New York. As late as February 5, 1941, Ralph Hawkes wrote to Bartók:

VIOLIN CONCERTO. The Piano reduction of this work is now being printed and I hope to get copies away some time of this month. My idea with regard to the Full Score of this work is that we should engrave it, so that it could be submitted to various Conductors and I think this is really necessary. It will cost a lot of money to do but I think it could be managed during the next six months. I shall be glad to know your views on this but, of course, much will depend upon the arrangement of any First Performance.22

On April 30, 1941, Hawkes wrote further to Bartók:

VIOLIN CONCERTO. I am sure you will be glad to see the copies of the Violin and Piano Reduction of this work; I received them from the printer yesterday and they have gone forward to you via our Office. I shall be interested to hear from you that they have arrived safely and that you are pleased with the publication. I am taking no steps here to arrange a performance until I hear from you.23

It took some time before the first copies of the published piano score reached New York from London, the mails having been slowed by war conditions. Dr. Heinsheimer, representative of Boosey & Hawkes in New York, was able to inform Bartók of getting ten copies only on June 17, 1941.24 In this form the work made its way through preparations for the first performance. The prospect of an American premiere--Spivakovsky's Cleveland performance in January of 1943--emerged by the end of the year 1941. On January 9, 1942, Heinsheimer wrote Bartók about the Violin Concerto: "The parts and score have been sent to Cleveland this morning."25 Chances are that the publisher was not ready to face the considerable expense for the production of the large orchestral score until after a successful performance in Cleveland. The engraving process--the copyright year in the proof is given as 1945--could not have been completed earlier than 1944 (more likely, however, 1945). Since the proofs for the engraving contain entries reflecting the composer's rehearsal, or rather direct listening impressions, it may be assumed that his revisions were not made until 1944 (more likely again 1945). Two such entries, emanating from rehearsal or performance experience, might be mentioned here. In the second movement, measure 35, Bartók added to the last bottom note of the harp: "(sic)." What is involved is an extended unison passage, in which this note appears as B rather than A. Bartók's comment reads:

I have the experience that (good) musicians believed this B to be a misprint for "A". It would be advisable (though unusual) to add a (sic).

We find an earlier suggestion of this point in the autograph (page 43) in what obviously reflects an exchange between a performer or editor and the composer. The former apparently marked the pitch B and placed at the margin: "A?", and Bartók added : "no!" The other entry occurs in the first movement, page 25, measures 179-184. Here Bartók changed twelve dynamic indications with the commentary: "(these are later changes made after I heard the performance)."

Several other changes in the proofs similarly correspond with entries added in the autograph:

Table I
Page Measure  
    Movement 1
4 31 Vln Solo: sf
4 31 Ob. I: natural sign
26 187 Dbl Bass: three tenuto signs Horn II: instead of a dotted half note G with
34 224 following quarter rest, correctly; a whole note G
38 270 Clar I: natural sign before the first note Vln Solo: second trill-group ("Triller-Welle")
42 293 marked wirth natural sign
43 294 Bassons I, II: f added to the first note Dbl Bass: a superfluous staccato dot removed
43 294 above the third note
    Movement 2
58 34 Flute II: natural sign before the first note
    Movement 3
103 320 Cellos: natural sign
105 304 Violas: mf
105; 346-348 Dbl Bass: ---- f
106 353 Violas: first note not D-sharp but C-sharp Violas: the natural sign before the A in the thirty­
111 413 second-note tremolo subsequently added
112 417 Vln II: tutti (senza sord.) added
112 417 Violas: tutti [sic] (senza sord.) added

Other changes that the composer made are concerned with corrections of errors in the autograph:

Table II
Page Measure  
    Movement 1
15 97 Violas: instead of D-flat correctly E-flat
15 98 Violas: instead of F-natural correctly E-natural In the above cases the notation in the autograph seems uncertain; the note heads are correctly rendered but the accidentals appear lower.
35 235 Clar I, II: instead of concert E, correctly concert F­sharp
48 360 Vln I: the second note changed from A to G with the following comment: "This deviation has not much sense. seems to be a slip of the pen in MS. (cf. 1st Horn); should evidently be G."
    Movement 2
60 50 Clar I: flat sign added to the second note eith the comment "this is a fault in the MS."
Vln II: Bartók's comment on the rubato-like passage: "I omitted by mistake to indicate the score that these hemisemidemiquaver groups should have
62 before 69 small heads (as in the piano score). What can be done? perhaps leave it unchanged; for the reduced pocket score it would be too small anyway." Bartók's remark was crossed out afterwards, and the passage remained unchanged.
    Movement 3
103 319 Timp: the correct rhythm: three even quarter notes;
nstead of quarter note, dotted quarter note, eighth note. Bartók comments: "mistake in the MS!"

* Two errors not discovered by Bartók in the proof, and thus remaining uncorrected in the printed score, are: movement 2, p54/m8, cellos (the autograph shows correctly that the second note should be a quarter note instead of an eighth note); and p55/m9, bassoons I, II (instead of alto clef, tenor clef).

The annotations with which Bartók explained his specific performance directions to the engraver are important.

Table III
Page Measure  
    Movement 1
2 10 Vln Solo: the triplet groups should not be marked by brackets but by slurs.
2 13 Vln Solo: the waves serving as trill marks should be lengthened (or shortened) to correspond with the duration of the trill. (The same principle applies to crescendo and decrescendo marks.) Vln II, Violas: the glissando marks must lead
5 36-38 directly to the notes involved:

The composer placed particular emphasis upon the combination of slurs and staccato dots. Rather than a number of corrections in the proofs, we cite here Bartók's letter of December 7, 1939 to the editor Erwin Stein (see note 21):

In string (bow-) instruments [group a: three eigth-note triplets, the first two joined by a slur, the third separated with a staccato dot;] and [group b: three eigth-note triplets under one slur, the third note also marked with a staccato dot;] (or[the same figures as above but marked beneath the notes rather than above] have a different meaning [:] a) means an interruption before the last quaver, b) means a shorter sound of the last note, without any interruption.

Bartók also attributed great importance to the clear marking of the strong pizzicato, which he was the first to use, with the explanation "the string rebounds off the fingerboard."26 The engraver, not familiar with Bartók's symbol (a circle bisected by a vertical stroke) and its interpretation attempted to render it by an (ellipsis with a vertical stroke placed above it). The composer responded with an extensive explanation:

These signs [ ] will not do: they mean "use of the thumb" (Daumenaufsatz) in Cello. My sign is this: which is not yet used in music as far as I know. (See 4th String Quartet, Music for strings etc.) ( ) (this is a regular circle, not oblong). However, I am inclined to a compromise: it would perhaps do, if the signs on this page are transformed into i.e. into signs similar to those on p. 66.27

As shown in the printed score, Bartók's wish was in this case followed without compromise.

Bartók's most thorough change in the engraver's layout applies to pages 32-33. The upbeat to measure 213 signals a new section within the first movement, with a new tempo indication. This upbeat was engraved at the end of page 32, while the first full measure of the new section with the new tempo indication appeared on page 33. Bartók formulated his objection as follows:

This is a bad situation indeed. The Tempo I. (ma tranquillo) begins on the upbeat, this I cannot help and change. Every different placement would be incorrect. It is too bad that the piano score has this inexactitude! As I see the [crossed out: only] two possible solutions are: (1) As in the MS, which looks queer yet I would not mend it; (2) to re-engrave pp. 32, 33, and bring over the two following bars from p. 33 to p. 32 which is costly. Decide please! - I just discovered that there [crossed out: is a third solution]: reengrave only last bar of p. 32, the end of the bar would then be:

Nevertheless, a solution was found and used, namely to engrave pages 32 and 33 over again. In the new engraving,

measure 213 was transferred from page 33 to page 32. In the printed score page 33 has one measure less and page 32 one measure more than in the proofs.

The unity of the notational image--marking like effects and phenomena with like means or symbols--mattered greatly to Bartók. A few examples of his comments in this connection:

Table IV
Page Measure  
    Movement 1
1 - General remark:
1) I,II (etc.) or I. II (etc.)?
2) Ca. has a period in duration marks but no period in M.M. indications! Now. Anglosaxons are very touchy about abbreviation-periods! Better put everywhere period after ca. Check up.
9 56-57 Vln. Solo: why a difference in type (size) of 5 and 3?!
36 249-251 Vln. Solo: decision about equal size of 5 and 3? Bassoons I, II: Bartók added "senza sordino" for
47 346, 348 Bassoon I and "(senza sordino)" for Bassoon II. His explanation: "an embarassing situation: senza sord. applies, of course, only to I because II is and was senza! But if we put here senza sord., then it will look as if II in the previous bars is meant con sord.! Perhaps my suggested solution will do and is not to[o] illogical."
    Movement 3
86 135 135ff., Strings: "NB. string tremolos: for no apparent reason I Marked I marked tremolos by 4 beams from here on (until p. 112) instead of 3 beams [My method is in slow tempo 4, in fast 3 beams]. Mea culpa! this inconsistency which to help would mean to[o] much trouble, probably!"

* There was one instance, however, where Bartók's wish with respect to beams was not honored. In measures 555ff., third movement, the repeating figures in the part of the solo violin were partly written out and partly abbreviated. In response to Bartók's comment about the inconsistency, Erwin Stein, editor for Boosey & Hawkes, London, appealed to the engraver "to satisfy the composer," but Bartók's objection seemed in this case not sufficiently founded.

Another category of Bartók's corrections was concerned with the matter of language. Verbal clarity and precision were as important to the composer as corresponding aspects of the musical text. In the autograph score, completed in 1938 in Budapest, instrument names and most of the interpretative indications and instructions were given in Italian, annotations in Hungarian or Hungarian and English, and the performance duration in French. In the printed score, Bartók intended to indicate the instrument names and performance duration in English and the annotations in English or French, and he abandoned Hungarian comments.

Some details dealing with these matters in the proofs follow:

Table V
Page Measure  
    Movement 1
12 74 Harp: Bartók says regarding the instruction pres de la table.
"(Question of principle) Should this not be in English? How is is [sic] it in 'Concerto' (1st Mov.)?"
The remark was crossed out and the French
instruction kept.
45 305-308 Vln Solo, Footnote: "Hungarian better omit. Remain two languages. In case of bi-lingual remarks one would be italicized. Which one? The whole should be re-engraved thus: * (up-arrow) means a quarter [tone] higher. (downarrow) quarter tone lower (no period!) * (up-arrow) indique un quart de ton etc. As for the French footnote I don't know if "indique" will do: perhaps indique une intonation d'un quart de ton? (check this please!)
51 373-375 " Strings: Bartók's commentary regarding the footnote dealing with the strong pizzicato: "Some remarks as to p. 45. It would be nicer to have the word pizzicato in a 'contrary' type, i.e.: 1) if English is Roman, then there in italics, and in the italicized French the aord in Roman, 2) or vice versa. Then no parenth. are needed. [parenth. always mean something strange, unusual, something 'so to speak': italics (in Roman typed text) mean a foreign word (which may be very well known and much in use)] or vice versa.
    Movement 2
59 41 Viola: "2 a 3 Soli"was corrected to read: "2 o 3 Sole." Bartók;'s comment: "(Letter 'o' which means in Italian or.)
63 83 " Vln Solo: "leggiero" corrected to "leggero." Bartók, adding "see MS," claims parenthetically: "leggero is the correct form of this Italian word"
69 last Comment regarding the French term "Dureé": "not English?"
    Movement 3
87 260 Viola: "3 Soli" corrected to read "3 Sole." Bartók's comment: "(sorry but Viola is feminine in Italian) in English too if it is a girl"
99 267 Vln Solo: "sonore" corrected to read "sonoro". 99 267 Bartók's comment: "sorry, but in Italian it must be sonoro"

It was not the intention of this study to discuss Bartók's corrections of the engraver's proofs for his great violin concerto in thorough detail; rather we have been concerned with the types of Bartók's corrections (corrections of routine errors or engraving flaws not having been taken into account). Yet such an identification of the principles guiding Bartók's corrections will make it possible to recognize Bartók's methodical working procedure and afford the observer impressions of Bartók the man and creative artist.

For a composer of Bartók's importance it would have sufficed in the years 1944-1945 to enter his proof corrections without any comment. But he considered it necessary to offer reasons and even defense of them, to explain his changes and clarifications to the publisher and engraver, and thus to stand for an unmistakable expression of his ideas down to the smallest point. The several layers of his revisions, in pencil, ink, and other graphic tools, both in autograph and proof, are reminiscent of his multiple revisions in his written record of folk songs,28 where, to quote Zoltán Kodály, "a growing sense of responsibility is also evident."29 This same "growing sense of responsibility" is found in the notation and correction of his works.

Zoltán Kodály wrote:

For the roots of science and of art are the same. Each, in its own way, reflects the world. The basic conditions: sharp powers of observation, precise expression of the life observed, and raising it to a higher synthesis. And the foundation of scientific and artistic greatness is also the same: just man, vir justus. And Bartók, who left Europe because he was unable to bear the injustice raging here any longer, followed Rousseau's slogan: vitam impendere vero(stake one's life on justice).30

-- Ferenc Bónis


  1. Bence Szabolcsi, "Das Leben Béla Bartóks" in Béla Bartók. Weg und Werk, Schriften und Briefe, comp. Bence Szabolcsi (Budapest: Corvina, 1957), p. 45. [Return to text]
  2. Ever since 1957, the date of publication for the earlier work, Boosey & Hawkes distinguished the two concertos by the titles Violin Concerto No. 1, op. posth. and Violin Concerto No. 2. The composer himself, for various reasons not having wanted to publish the earlier work in its entirety, nor having issued it in print, deemed it unnecessary to add a number to the later work and referred to it simply Violin Concerto. [Return to text]
  3. Ferenc Bónis, "Elsõ hegedûverseny, elsõ vonósnégyes. Bartók zeneszerzõi pályájának fordulópontja" ("First Violin Concerto, First String Quartet. A Turning Point in Béla Bartók's Creative Career") contained in the author's volume Hódolat Bartóknak és Kodálynak ("Homage to Bartók and Kodály") (Budapest: Püski, 1992), p. 37. [Return to text]
  4. E hét valamelyik napján mintha felsõbb sugallatra, oly hirtelen ötlött eszembe az az elvitázhatatlannak látszó kényszerûség, hogy a maga darabja nem is állhat csak 2 tételbõl. 2 ellentétes kép: ez az egész. Most csak azt csodálom, hogy ezt az igazságot nem láttam meg elõbb. Ibid.,p. 38. [Return to text]
  5. György Kroó, "Unrealized Plans and Ideas for Projects by Bartók" in Studia Musicologica XII/1-4 (Budapest, 1970), p. 17. [Return to text]
  6. Ibid, p. 18. [Return to text]
  7. The quotations from Bartók's correspondence (conducted in German) were published in László Somfai's "Strategics of Variation in the Second Movement of Bartók's Violin Concerto, 1937-1938" in Studia Musicologica XIX/1-4 (Budapest, 1977), p. 162. [Return to text]
  8. Székely's wording (in Hungarian) was published again by László Somfai, op. cit. [Return to text]
  9. Ibid. [Return to text]
    1. Claude Kenneson, Székely and Bartók, The Story of a Friendship (Portland: Oregon, 1994), p. 382-383. [Return to text]
  10. Personal communication from Székely to László Somfai, op. cit., p. 161, see also his "Drei Themenentwürfe zu dem Violinkonzert aus den Jahren 1936/37" in Documenta Bartókiana, no. 6 (Budapest and Mainz, 1981), p. 248. [Return to text]
  11. See notes 7 and 10. [Return to text]
  12. The sketches mentioned here were presented by Bartók to Tossy Spivakovsky, soloist for the American premiere, in 1943. A photographic copy went to the Bartók Archives of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, in 1965. They were published in Somafy's study, see note 7. [Return to text]
  13. most megint "megrendelás"-en dolgozom és megint Basel-nek (de most kamarazenérõl van szó). Remélhetõleg elkészülök vele. Még egy másik megrendelésem is volna (hegedûkoncert), hát ezzel aztán nem tudom, hogyan készülök el, mert ez már az õszi hónapokra marad. Bartók Béla családi levelei, ed. Béla Bartók, Jr. (Budapest: Zenemûkiadó, 1981), p. 576. [Return to text]
  14. Willi Schuh, "Kompositionsaufträge" in Alte und neue Musik (Zurich: Atlantis Verlag, 1952), p. 73. [Return to text]
  15. Az az új mû, amin most dolgozom, egy "kvartett" 2 zongorára és 2 ütõhangszercsoportra. De ezen kívül még egy hegedûkoncertet is kellene írnom. Bartók Béla levelei, (B. Bartók's letters, ed. János Demény (Budapest: Zenemûkiadó, 1976), p. 559. [Return to text]
  16. See Béla Bartók, Jr., Apám féletének krónikája (My Father's Life Story) (Budapest: Zenemûkiadó, 1981), p. 385. [Return to text]
  17. Bartók Béla levelei, ed. János Demény (Budapest: Zenemûkiadó, 1976), p. 605. [Return to text]
  18. A Hegedûverseny utolsá taktusait egyébként Amszterdamban, minálunk, az én Bechstein zongorámon fejezte be Bartók. E befejezés, nem egyedülálló módon, gondot okozott a zeneszerzõnek. Több lehetõség közül végül is a ma ismert változatot hagyta jóvá. Felbátorodva azt javasoltam neki, hogy az elsõ tétel témája elé írjon két ütemelõzõ hangot. Bartók erre csak mosolygott; de amikor a darab megjelenése után, évekkel késõbb, megláttam a partitúrát: kioerült, hogy megfogadta tanácsomat. See Így lattuk Bartókot, ed. Ferenc Bónis (Budapest: Zenemûkiadó, 1981), p. 107. [Return to text]
  19. There are eleven performances listed in Tibor Tallián's book Bartók fogadtatása Amerikában 1940-1945 (The Bartók Reception in America 1940­1945) (Budapest: Zenemûkiadó, 1988), pp. 197­98. A twelfth performance on February 14, 1943, in Pittsburgh is mentioned in the letter to Bartók from H. W. Heinsheimer of Boosey & Hawkes/Belwin Inc. dated February 10, 1943. Having remained unpublished, this letter was placed at the disposal of the writer by Mr. Peter Bartók, Homosassa, Florida. [Return to text]
  20. Bartók's unpublished letter to Ralph Hawkes, May 29, 1939. It contains the composer's first instructions for the engraver.[Return to text]
  21. Unpublished letter by Bartók to Erwin Stein of Boosey & Hawkes in London, December 7, 1939, quoted from a typewritten copy. [Return to text]
  22. Copies of typed letters from Ralph Hawkes to Béla Bartók in the possession of Peter Bartók. [Return to text]
  23. See note 22. [Return to text]
  24. See note 22. [Return to text]
  25. Original in the possession of Peter Bartók. [Return to text]
  26. See p. 51 of the printed full score. [Return to text]
  27. See p. 51 of the proof of the full score [Return to text]
  28. A sample of this procedure was issued as a colorprint reproduction in Ferenc Bónis, Béla Bartók: His Life in Pictures and Documents (Budapest: Corvina, 1981), p.92. [Return to text]
  29. Zoltán Kodály, "A folklorista Bartók" in his collected writings Visszatekintés (In Retrospect), ed. Ferenc Bónis (Budapest: Zenemûkiadó, 1964), 2, p.454. English translation "Bartók the Folklorist" in The Selected writings of Zoltán Kodály (Budapest: Corvina, 1974), p. 107. [Return to text]
  30. Op. cit., p. 456 (1964 edition), p. 106 (1974 edition). [Return to text]