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String Quartet No.3 Sz.85

Béla Bartók (b. 1881 - d. 1945)

Callino Quartet

Callino Quartet

Composer
Béla Bartók (b. 1881 - d. 1945)
Composition Year
1926-7
Work Movements
1. Prima parte: Moderato
2. Seconda parte: Allegro
3. Ricapitulazione della prima parte: Moderato
4. Coda: Allegro molto
Artists
Callino Quartet (Sarah Sexton, Mihaela Girardi [violins], Rebeccca Jones [viola], Sarah McMahon [cello]) [quartet]

Programme Note Writer:
© Sarah M. Burn

The size and musical significance of the string quartet has changed radically ever since the 18th century when Haydn’s quartets were pre-eminent and quartets, such as those by Boccherini, were generally published in sets of six. Then in Beethoven’s lifetime cycles of even two or three quartets became rarer, and this trend culminated in his late string quartets, just one of which could stand alone and carry the same weight as a symphony. Bartók’s six string quartets, which he wrote between 1908 and 1939, continued the transformation of the character and function of composition in general, and the string quartet in particular, and his quartets occupy a central position, both in his output and in 20th century music.

 

Bartók wrote his Third String Quartet (disregarding the quartets he wrote before 1903 and which he later suppressed) in September, 1927, by which time his style had become much more personal. So the work is a distillation of his most distinctive stylistic traits, including his fascination with the characteristics of the music of the many ethnic minorities in the Hungarian section of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which included Slovak, Romanian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Transylvanian communities. He had collected peasant music with Kodály in the early years of the century and believed that the music of the rural peasants was a ‘natural phenomenon’, which had the potential to reform both the nation’s musical life and his own musical approach. In his quartets he relied on short motifs and so the peasant music particularly appealed to him because of its small-scale completeness.

 

In the Third Quartet he achieved the ultimate compression of his formal, pitch and rhythmic materials. The four sections are played without a break, and the ABAB structure is the first sign of arch form in his music. In October, 1928 it was awarded joint first prize in a competition of the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia, where it was first performed on 30th December, 1928. Bartók had recently heard Berg’s Lyrische Suite, and this partly inspired his new approach to string sonority, for the score of the Third Quartet is full of ‘special effects’, which give the work its startling piquancy. There are two basic formal units of contrasting character and material: the introspective Prima parte in which the motif undergoes extensive polyphonic development, and the strongly contrasted Seconda parte, which features Hungarian folk dance elements, such as brilliant glissandos, driving rhythms and pizzicatos (especially the ‘Bartók pizzicato’ in which the string is plucked so forcefully that it rebounds against the fingerboard). The Seconda parte is followed by two minor sections, the first of which is a shortened recapitulation of the Prima parte. The Coda uses material from the Seconda parte, and the percussive rhythms propel the work to a vigorous conclusion.

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String Quartet No.3 Sz.85

Composer: Béla Bartók (b. 1881 - d. 1945)
Performance date: Sunday 5th July 2009
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Béla Bartók (b. 1881 - d. 1945)
Work Title String Quartet No.3 Sz.85
Composition Year 1926-7
Work Movements 1. Prima parte: Moderato
2. Seconda parte: Allegro
3. Ricapitulazione della prima parte: Moderato
4. Coda: Allegro molto
Artist(s) Callino Quartet (Sarah Sexton, Mihaela Girardi [violins], Rebeccca Jones [viola], Sarah McMahon [cello]) [quartet]
Performance Date Sunday 5th July 2009
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:15:42
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category String Quartet
Instrumentation 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Sarah M. Burn

The size and musical significance of the string quartet has changed radically ever since the 18th century when Haydn’s quartets were pre-eminent and quartets, such as those by Boccherini, were generally published in sets of six. Then in Beethoven’s lifetime cycles of even two or three quartets became rarer, and this trend culminated in his late string quartets, just one of which could stand alone and carry the same weight as a symphony. Bartók’s six string quartets, which he wrote between 1908 and 1939, continued the transformation of the character and function of composition in general, and the string quartet in particular, and his quartets occupy a central position, both in his output and in 20th century music.

 

Bartók wrote his Third String Quartet (disregarding the quartets he wrote before 1903 and which he later suppressed) in September, 1927, by which time his style had become much more personal. So the work is a distillation of his most distinctive stylistic traits, including his fascination with the characteristics of the music of the many ethnic minorities in the Hungarian section of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which included Slovak, Romanian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Transylvanian communities. He had collected peasant music with Kodály in the early years of the century and believed that the music of the rural peasants was a ‘natural phenomenon’, which had the potential to reform both the nation’s musical life and his own musical approach. In his quartets he relied on short motifs and so the peasant music particularly appealed to him because of its small-scale completeness.

 

In the Third Quartet he achieved the ultimate compression of his formal, pitch and rhythmic materials. The four sections are played without a break, and the ABAB structure is the first sign of arch form in his music. In October, 1928 it was awarded joint first prize in a competition of the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia, where it was first performed on 30th December, 1928. Bartók had recently heard Berg’s Lyrische Suite, and this partly inspired his new approach to string sonority, for the score of the Third Quartet is full of ‘special effects’, which give the work its startling piquancy. There are two basic formal units of contrasting character and material: the introspective Prima parte in which the motif undergoes extensive polyphonic development, and the strongly contrasted Seconda parte, which features Hungarian folk dance elements, such as brilliant glissandos, driving rhythms and pizzicatos (especially the ‘Bartók pizzicato’ in which the string is plucked so forcefully that it rebounds against the fingerboard). The Seconda parte is followed by two minor sections, the first of which is a shortened recapitulation of the Prima parte. The Coda uses material from the Seconda parte, and the percussive rhythms propel the work to a vigorous conclusion.