- Malcolm Gillies
(b Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary [now Sînnicolau Mare, Romania], March 25, 1881; d New York, Sept 26, 1945). Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist and pianist. Although he earned his living mainly from teaching and playing the piano and was a relentless collector and analyst of folk music, Bartók is recognized today principally as a composer. His mature works were, however, highly influenced by his ethnomusicological studies, particularly those of Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak peasant musics. Throughout his life he was also receptive to a wide variety of Western musical influences, both contemporary (notably Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg) and historic; he acknowledged a change from a more Beethovenian to a more Bachian aesthetic stance in his works from 1926 onwards. He is now considered, along with Liszt, to be his country’s greatest composer, and, with Kodály and Dohnányi, a founding figure of 20th-century Hungarian musical culture.
At the time of Bartók’s birth, Nagyszentmiklós was part of the northern end of the ethnically diverse southern Hungarian province of Torontál. There, his father, also Béla Bartók (...