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Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
TODAY IS
February 19
Can You Guess? Luigi Boccherini was a tremendous fan of Franz Josef Haydn.  Haydn had a great love for string quartets.  He wrote 83 of themCan You Guess how many string quartets Boccherini wrote?

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1743 - Luigi Boccherini, Italian composer and cello virtuoso, was born. 

1763 - Premiere of Johann Christian Bach's opera Orione at the Kings' Theater in London. It ran  for three months.

1794 - Premiere of Franz. Josef Haydn's Symphony No. 99. Haydn conducting at the King's Theatre in London.

1841 - Elfrida Andree, Swedish composer, was born in Visby, Gotland.

1906 - Louis Gesenway, US composer, was born in Dvinsk, Latvia.

1949 - Premiere of Irving Fine's Partita for winds, by the New Art Wind Quintet.

1964 - Simon & Garfunkel completed the original acoustic version of Sounds of Silence.

1969 - Peter Flint, US composer, was born.

1990 - Premiere of Daniel Asia's Symphony No. 1, by the Seattle Symphony, Christopher Kendall conducting.

2003 - Premiere of Svend Hvidfelt Nielsen's Dances and Detours, Toccata for Violin and Nonet. Randers Chamber Orchestra, in Randers, Denmark.
Bartók: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
by Violinist Gyorgy Pauk
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Bela Bartók'a String Quartet No. 3, was first played February 19, 1929, by the Waldbauer Quartet in London.

Bela Bartok was born Sînnicolau Mare (now Hungary), March 25, 1881.  His first music teacher was his mother, who brought up the family after his father died when he was 7.

In 1894 they moved to Bratislava, where he attended school, studied piano with Laszlo Erkel and Anton Hyrtl, and was composing sonatas and string quartets by the time he was 17.   composed sonatas and quartets.
He was deeply impressed by the music of Richard Strauss, whom he met at the Budapest premiere of Also Sprach Zarathustra in 1902.  He wrote a symphonic poem in 1903 called Kossuth, using Strauss's methods and Liszt's style.


In 1904, Kossuth was performed in Manchester and Budapest.   Bartók began to make a career as a pianist, writing a Piano Quintet and two Lisztian virtuoso showpieces (Rhapsody op.1, Scherzo op.2).  He also  made his first Hungarian folksong transcription.  In 1905 he collected more songs and began collaborating with
Kodály.  Their first arrangements were published in 1906.

The next year he was appointed Thoman's successor at the Budapest Academy, which enabled him to settle in Hungary and continue his folksong collecting, notably in Transylvania. Meanwhile his music was beginning to be influenced by this activity and by the music of Debussy that Kodály had brought back from Paris: both opened the way to new, modal kinds of harmony and irregular metre. The 1908 Violin Concerto is still within the symphonic tradition, but the many small piano pieces of this period show a new, authentically Hungarian Bartók emerging, with the 4ths of Magyar folksong, the rhythms of peasant dance and the scales he had discovered among Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak peoples. The arrival of this new voice is documented in his String Quartet no.1 (1908), introduced at a Budapest concert of his music in 1910.

There followed orchestral pieces and a one-act opera, Bluebeard's Castle, dedicated to his young wife. Influenced by Mussorgsky and Debussy but most directly by Hungarian peasant music (and Strauss, still, in its orchestral pictures), the work, a grim fable of human isolation, failed to win the competition in which it was entered. For two years (1912-14) Bartok practically gave up composition and devoted himself to the collection, arrangement and study of folk music, until World War I put an end to his expeditions. He returned to creative activity with the String Quartet no.2 (1917) and the fairytale ballet The Wooden Prince, whose production in Budapest in 1917 restored him to public favour. The next year Bluebeard's Castle was staged and he began a second ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin, which was not performed until 1926 (there were problems over the subject, the thwarting and consummation of sexual passion). Rich and graphic in invention, the score is practically an opera without words.

While composing The Mandarin Bartók came under the influence of Stravinsky and Schönberg, and produced some of his most complex music in the two violin sonatas of 1921-2. At the same time he was gaining international esteem: his works were published by Universal Edition and he was invited to play them all over Europe. He was now well established, too, at home. He wrote the confident Dance Suite (1923) for a concert marking the 50th anniversary of Budapest, though there was then another lull in his composing activity until the sudden rush of works in 1926 designed for himself to play, including the Piano Concerto no.1, the Piano Sonata and the suite Out of Doors. These exploit the piano as a percussion instrument, using its resonances as well as its xylophonic hardness. The search for new sonorities and driving rhythms was continued in the next two string quartets (1927-8), of which no.4, like the concerto, is in a five-section palindromic pattem (ABCBA).

Similar formal schemes, with intensively worked counterpoint, were used in the Piano Concerto no.2 (1931) and String Quartet no.5 (1934), though now Bartók's harmony was becoming more diatonic. The move from inward chromaticism to a glowing major (though modally tinged) tonality is basic to the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) and the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937), both written for performance in Switzerland at a time when the political situation in Hungary was growing unsympathetic.

In 1940 Bartók and his second wife (he had divorced and remarried in 1923) sadly left war-torn Europe to live in New York, which he found alien. They gave concerts and for a while he had a research grant to work on a collection of Yugoslav folksong, but their finances were precarious, as increasingly was his health. It seemed that his last European work the String Quartet no.6 (1939), might be his pessimistic swansong, but then came the exuberant Concerto for Orchestra (1943) and the involuted Sonata for solo violin (1944). Piano Concerto no.3, written to provide his widow with an income, was almost finished when he died, a Viola Concerto left in sketch.

; died New York, 26 September 1945).
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Bela Bartok    
Bela Bartók
1881 - 1945
In 1898 he was accepted by the Vienna Conservatory, but attended the Budapest Academy (1899-1903), where he studied the piano with Istvan Thoman and composition with Janos Koessler.  There he met and was influenced by both Wagner and Richard Strauss.

In 1904 His symphonic poem, Kossuth, was performed in Budapest and Manchester, and Bartók began a piano career, writing a Piano Quintet, a rhapsody and a scherzo. He also made his first Hungarian folksong transcription. A collection of arrangements of folksongs, in which he collaborated with
Zoltan Kodály,was published in 1906. The next year he accepted the position his former teacher, Thoman, had held at the Budapest Academy.  This allowed him to continue his folksong collecting. Although his Violin Concerto (1908) is still quite traditional, many of his piano works began to show influences of this folk tradition.  Bartók's String Quartet No.1 (1908) brought this to the fore 

After lukewarm reception of his Bluebeard's Castle, Bartok devoted himself to collecting, arranging and study of folksongs until World War I, at which time he returned to composing.  String Quartet No.2 (1917) and his ballet The Wooden Prince, were well received by the public.

Bartók was deeply influenced by the modern styles of Stravinsky and Schönberg, and his violin sonatas of the early 1920's show this new style.  The technical complexity of the pieces in their harmonies and rhythms are very much in the modern style.  They were very well accepted, and Bartók was in demand throughout Europe.  He began to view instruments in a new light.  The piano became a percussion instrument, whose sound almost resembled that of a xylophone.  The rhythms and harmonies of his next two string quartets continued Bartok's modernity.  He broke tradition with quartet no. 4, in that it consisted of 5 movements rather than 4.

By 1940, Bartók had been widowed and remarried.  His march toward a modern style continued.  He moved to New York with the onset of war in Europe.  His health was failing, and his music turned almost sullen with his String Quartet no. 6.  In New York Bartók received grants to continue his work on the folksong collections he had begun years earlier.  In spite of Bartók's discomfort with New York, though he returned to a joyous sound with his Concerto for Orchestra, which was published in 1943, and had great success with his final Violin Sonata, in 1944.

Realizing his health was failing, Bartók undertook the task of writing a piano concerto to provide his widow with an income.  It was not quite complete when Bartók died,  September 26, 1945.  He also left a Viola Concerto in its earliest stages of development.
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Did You Guess?
Luigi Boccherini only wrote 91 string quartets.  I said "only" 91 because he wrote an astonishing 137 quintets!  

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