Dr. Damjana Bratuz
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Bartókiana - Abstracts

Goldsmiths 20th-Century Conference
June 28 – July 1, 2001
Glodsmiths College, London UK


The urtümliches Klangspektrum in Bartók's Piano Music

By Damjana Bratuž

This contribution comes from the 'smithy' of a pianist's studio, i.e, from the locus of a musical analysis that has its origin in the inner ear, it proceeds by the ear's verifications, modifications, and recognitions, ending at, or rather, renewing the process at, the reception of the listener's ear. The aim of this brief contribution is that of a teacher: to call attention.
          1.There are aspects of the analyses of Bartok's scores by musicologists as well as by performers, that still ignore Bartok's admonition regarding notation, the only "really true notations" being, according to him, "the sound-tracks on the record itself" ([1943] 1951). It was at Indiana U. in the early 1960s that I first heard Bartok's aboriginal sound-spectrum (Uhde, 1959) in his recorded collections of peasant music.
          2.Awareness of these recorded examples guides the ear of the performer towards more than a simple evocation of sound; it determines the deciphering of the dynamic relations, the distribution of dynamic layers, the choice of articulation, of agogic, of speed.
          3. Whether in his folk transcriptions, or in his abstraction of folk elements, Bartok's notation remains a point of arrival, not the point of departure from which current musicological analysis derives its (more and more mathematized) results. The sign on the score only permits a retrieval, does not, by itself, give the implied formal context. Therefore, scholarly efforts in oral tradition provide great insights to a performing musician, especially on matters of conferred vs inherent meaning (Foley, 1991)
Two examples are used to illustrate the argument, one from the instrumental and one from the vocal peasant tradition:
1. A 1907 duda (bagpipe) tune recorded by Bartok on phonograph cylinders, and others taken from the 1937 Patria recordings are examined for those timbric elements that make the bagpipe "the only peasant polyphonic instrument" (Somfai, 1984). The search for the intelligence contained in sound, the transposition onto the piano keyboard of the nasal timbre [adopted by Berio as a unique folk derivation (1981)] remind one, to paraphrase Klee, of Bartok's desire not to reflect traditional features, but to make them audible.Sections of the third movement of the Piano Sonata are examined and examples of Bartok's duda style performances are presented, in a series of progressive complexity, from transcriptions to abstractions.
2. The selection for the vocal parlando/rubato style represents its most extreme peasant manifestation, the funeral lament, a Rumanian bocet collected by Bartok.Contemporary analysis of the second movement of the Piano Sonata departs and calculates from the notation arrived at by the composer (Wilson, 1992), ignoring the formal significance of the 'puzzling' interruptions. In the chosen example, "Let the bell toll loudly," the peasant delivery reveals the nature of the Pesante indication and of its articulation.

The aural corpus of the traditional sources from which Bartok derived compositional properties is today available, but is still awaiting the encounter with the ear of the performer and of the (Western) musicologist. The awareness of this silent partner (Foley, 1991) would widen to a much larger degree the entire spectrum of the compositional elements touched by the composer, and it would illuminate their endless interweaving.


  Damjana Bratu TOP

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