PLAYLIST #1 ~ TRACK 28
Zoltán Kocsis, piano
Another one for the collection: Bartók supervises while the villagers chill
Bartók Béla (1881–1945), to give his name its proper ordering, is perhaps the archetypal ethnographic composer, though he never confined himself to the vernacular culture of his native Hungary: “My true guiding principle … which I have been fully aware of ever since I have come upon myself as a composer: the ideal of the brotherhood of peoples, brotherhood created despite war and all conflict. It is this ideal which I work with all my power to serve through my music; this is why I do not avoid any influence, be it from Slovak, Romanian, Arabic or any other source. The only thing that matters is that the source be pure, fresh and healthy!” The pure drop here happens to be Romanian, though the Arabic influence is also present, unmistakably so in some of the many recorded arrangements of Bartók’s piano original, actually a transcription of a folk song he collected. Demonstrating the point, a Spotify search on “in one spot” (the double quotation marks make a difference if you want to avoid certain other things, which trust me you probably do) produces a little playlist of versions of the piece for a wide variety of lead instruments, some of which make the melody sound Middle Eastern indeed.