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Bartok's Unique Harmony

August 5, 2016, 9:44 AM · Something I love about teaching is the fact that I often get to witness "firsts" in my students.

For example, yesterday my student played a Bartok duet for me, the "Summer Solstice Song" from The Doflein Method, Vol. 1, otherwise known as the fourth duet in Bartok's 44 Duets for two violins.

She had spent the week learning the first violin part, a predictable tune which sounds quite bright and sunshiny, when played alone. This would be the first time she'd hear the harmony -- and this is often a first glimpse into a whole different concept of harmony for a student. Why? Because when you add the second violin part, it begins with "happy" harmonies but then steadily morphs and disintegrates into something rather dark and spooky by the end. From tonal to less-so.

Here's a little video I made to demonstrate:

My student was slightly aghast, "It seems like he ruined it by putting those weird notes in there at the end!" she said. I confessed that I actually like it very much that way -- it kind of twisted and weird and unpredictable, just like life can be. It's just one of many feelings that music can portray.

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August 5, 2016 at 07:48 PM · Yes, Bartok is brilliant that way... watch how a cello student morphed a Bartok Dance in Bulgarian Rhythm (for piano!) into a fantastic jazz string improv

August 5, 2016 at 07:51 PM · Very clever! Bartok stands the test of time, once again!

August 6, 2016 at 12:00 AM · His pupil Gyorgy Sandor once began a rehearsal of one of Bartok's concertos by denying the view that Bartok should be viewed as "mechanical" or "atonal."

"Bartok was VERY tonal! So tonal that he even put in extra notes-- like paprika."

August 10, 2016 at 02:12 AM · The Bartok duets are wonderful. I still recall seeing Perlman and Zuckerman play some of them at the Kennedy Center, including one titled the "Limping Dance" which Perlman describe as a personal favorite.

August 11, 2016 at 06:28 PM · yay for the Bartok Duos !!

Thanks, Laurie!

I'm also a huge fan of his compatriot Pal Jardanyi, who has a spectacular volume of his own duos (Z. 8812) publ. by Editio Musica Budapest as well-- also Albert Renyi. Jardanyi and Renyi's duos and harmonizations feature significantly in the EMB "Violin Tutor" method books... :-) [[Renyi not really prominent until vol. 4a, where he is even listed with the other writers...]]

...and, Istvan Szelenyi, anyone? :-)

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