I find myself thinking of Bartók today. For me, he seemed to rise to the musical challenges of the early 20th C with more vision and creativity than anyone else. In his music, we find blood and mathematics, folks songs and atonal cells, head and heart, earth and dreams. Who is to say who the greatest composer “in” the 20th C was, but I think he was the greatest composer “of” and “for” the 20th C. He answered all the big musical questions of his time.
It is one of the great regrets of my conducting career that I don’t get to do his music more often, and some of my absolute favorite works I have yet to perform (I’d sell a kidney to do a good Bluebeard’s Castle). It’s a sad commentary on the economics of music.
One piece I used to play a lot, and which I miss terribly, is his Second String Quartet. To me, the little red volume which holds the scores of his six string quartets is just about the ultimate “how to compose” textbook.
Here is a live performance of the 2nd with my old quartet from my years in Cincinnati. There are so many wonderful memories of working with my dear friends in this group- Kio Seiler, Eva Richey and Sheridan Kamberger Currie. Fun times!