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Béla Bartók’s 1907 Violin Concerto

Genesis and Fate


Alicja Usarek-Topper

The genesis and genius of Bartók’s Concerto was mingled with his love for Stefi Geyer. As Hungarian Tristan pursuing his Isolde, he sounds allusions to Wagner’s paean of unfulfilled love. In transposing the ideal into the real, Bartók enlists folk sources voicing pristine truths of peasants. While biography and Tristan allusions supply the keys to Stefi’s Concerto, the Tristan grief motif serves as bridge from idealized romance to the pentatonic simplicity of peasant realism. In these tensions private love and public life, and esoteric romance and raw worldliness are provoked and reconciled. The rise and fall of living romance and its musical mirroring against peasant scales and rhythms is background to "Tristan" ruling a score that incites and resolves the clash of two conflicting worlds

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List of Works Consulted


Abbate, Carolyn. Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Antokoletz, Elliott. “Principles of Pitch Organization in Bartók’s Fourth String Quartet.” New York, NY: Ph.D. diss. City University of New York, 1975.

________. The Music of Béla Bartók. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1984.

________. “Bartók’s Bluebeard: The Sources of Its Modernism.” College Music Symposium 30/1 (Spring 1990), 75–95.

________. Béla Bartók: A Guide to Research, Second Edition. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1997.

________. Bartók Perspectives. Edited by Elliott Antokoletz, Victoria Fischer, and Benjamin Suchoff. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

________. Musical Symbolism in the Operas of Debussy and Bartók. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Apthorp, William F. “Some of Wagner’s Heroes and Heroines.” Scribner’s Magazine 5 (1889), 331–348.

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