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Bartok, Bela

Bartok, Bela

Born in 1881


Inducted in 1999

Bartok was born in Nagyszentmiklos on March 25, 1881. In 1903 he graduated from the Budapest Royal Academy of Music. Bartok used an Edison phonograph and notebook in 1906, and started gathering music in Hungary, Romania, Transylvania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and North Africa. By 1918 he had already collected nearly 3,000 Hungarian folksongs, 3,500 Romanian, and 3,000 Slovak, with many more to come. In 1927-28 Bartok performed with the New York Philharmonic, took direction from both Willem Mengelberg and his former student Fritz Reiner, and still continued to conduct his folk music research, compose, and to teach at the Budapest Academy of Music. He finally gave up his position in 1934. That year, under sponsorship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, he prepared a collection of 13,000 Hungarian folksongs and the following year he was named a member of the Hungarian Academy Sciences. As the forces of fascism grew, Bartok’s apprehensions kept pace. After January 1933 he never performed in Germany again, and in 1937 he prohibited broadcasts of his music in Germany and Italy. During the summer of 1940 Bartok and his pianist wife, Ditta, left Hungary and headed for New York. He arrived at Columbia University and immediately was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree. Bartok then secured a research grant which allowed him to work on the collection of 2,600 discs of Yugoslav folk music. In 1941 he set to work on the archive, but disappointingly the Columbia appointment ended in December, 1942. Thankfully this work was completed before leukemia ended his life on September 26, 1945. Bela Bartok’s years in the United States produced glorious music, and the history of his final years will lodge permanently on the shelf of Nazi-era chronicles that one can only read with a heavy heart.