Dr. Damjana Bratuz
Home Page < Bartokiana < Abstracts

Bartókiana - Abstracts

XIIth ICMS – International Congress of Musical Signification:
 Music, Semiotics, and Intermediality
April 2 – 6, 2013, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
Bartók’s Improvisations for Piano: a Musical Frontier


[Original title: Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs]

[From initial conference Guidelines: Convergence between- structural approaches to music (music as structure, score analysis),- receiver oriented approaches (music as heard),- and performer oriented approaches (music as enacted)].

During an illuminating conversation I had with Denijs Dille (in Budapest, 1975) regarding Bartók’s Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, op.20 for piano (1920), he stressed the veritable compositional frontier that Bartók had reached in them. It signified to Dille a kind of experiment that impeded the composer from using any genuine folk song material in his subsequent works. The mode of composing the Improvisations was one in which, as Bartók described it, a peasant melody ”only serves as a ‘motto’ while that which is built round it is of real importance.”

Within this built-in dichotomy, to examine the divergent structural components, the acoustical effects, as well as the pianistic articulation needed to clarify the work, presents a particular challenge. To distinguish the ‘motto’s components from the invented material surrounding them requires a familiarity with a particular intonation, characterization, and delivery, that belong to an already vanished vocal competence. The current vogue of pairing classically trained instrumentalists with village-style ensembles, performing the ‘original’ tunes used by Bartók, does not guarantee the acquisition on the part of the concert artist of the competence, the insight, that alone would help the ear of the listener to grasp the uniqueness of the composer’s achievement.

This presentation examines the dual nature of the Improvisations. Recorded musical examples are juxtaposed with the aim of analyzing the various levels of com/prehension.

PowerPoint presentation (with sound)


Ansermet, Ernest 1961. Les Fondements de la Musique dans la Conscience Humaine. Neuchâtel, Suisse: Editions de la Baconnière,

Ansermet, Ernest. Écrits sur la Musique. Publiés par Jean-Claude Piguet. A La Baconnière Neuchâtel, Suisse, 1971.

Antokoletz, Elliott.(1984) The Music of Béla Bartók. A Study of Tonality and Progression in Twentieth-Century Music. Berkeley: University of California Press,

Bartók, Béla. 1981[1931,1924] The Hungarian Folk Song. Benjamin Suchoff (Ed.). Transl. M.D. Calvocoressi. With Annotations by Zoltán Kodály. Albany: State U niversity of New York Press.

Bartók, Béla.1922. [1920]. Improvisations op.20. Piano solo. Wien: Universal-Edition.

Bartók, Béla1991. Bartók at the Piano, CDs, 1920-1945. László Somfai and Zoltán Kocsis (Eds.). Budapest: Hungaroton.

Bohm, David (1971). “Fragmentation and Wholeness. In: The Structurist, No.11. Eli Bornstein, (Ed.). ( pp. 7-24), Saskatoon, Canada: University of Saskatchewan.

Bohm, David. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Routledge & Kegan Paul. London, 1980.

Cone, Edward T. Musical Form and Musical Performance. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1968.

Jancsó, Adrienne. LP [1970]. “Ráolvasások.” In Földédesanyám [Hungarian Folk Poetry] No.1. Magyar Record.

Lampert, Vera (1980). Bartók Népdal-Feldolgozásainak Forrásjegyzéke: Magyar, Szlovák, Román, Rutén, Szerb és Arab Népdalok és Táncok. Budapest: Zeneműkiadó.
[Available in English: Lampert,Vera and László Vikárius (Eds.) (2008). Folk music in Bartók's compositions : a source catalog: Arab, Hungarian, Romanian, Ruthenian, Serbian, and Slovak melodies /Népzene Bartók műveiben. Budapest : Hungarian Heritage House; Germany: G. Henle.]

Minardi, Gian Paolo, “Il grande solitario,” in Amadeus: il mensile della grande musica, No.84, November 1996, p.43. Milan, Italy.

Rosen, Charles (1964).- Bartók, Béla, 1881-1945.Improvisations, op. 20. Études, op. 18.Epic LC3878.Monaural/LC 3878. Produced by Thomas Z Shepard. Program notes by the [composer!] on slipcase.

Rosen, Charles (1994). The Frontiers of Meaning: Three informal Lectures on Music. New York: Hill and Wang.

Waldbauer, Iván (1996).. “Theorists’ Views on Bartók from Edwin von der Nüll to Paul Wilson.” In:Studia Musicologica 37:1. L. Somfai (Ed.). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó,

Wilson, Paul. (1992). The Music of Béla Bartók. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.


  Damjana Bratu TOP

new concept design - web design london, ontario