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Béla Bartók’s 1907 Violin Concerto

Genesis and Fate

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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

Alicja Usarek-Topper is a professor of Music at Collin College in Texas. She maintains a diverse profile as teacher, solo violin recitalist, chamber and orchestra musician, and scholar in twentieth-century music. The "Professor Alicja Usarek Annual Scholarship Award" of the Collin College Foundation and the "Scholarship Award in Recognition of the String Area" were established in her honor. Usarek helps students appropriate their ethnic background to foster the mutual enrichment of music and heritage. She is married to Matson Topper, a professor of Music at Dallas College. Their sixteen-year-old son Austin, who etched the drawing for the cover of this book, is preparing for a career as cellist.