Béla Bartók’s six string quartets, composed between 1908 and 1940, are 20th-century milestones of the genre. His First String Quartet is closely linked to his unhappy love for the violinist Stefi Geyer, to whom he sent the initial measures of its first movement in early 1908 with the remark: “My song of death”. When he completed all three movements of the work a year later, he had, according to his friend and colleague Zoltán Kodály, written himself “back into life”. In this First Quartet, Bartók combines late-Romantic sounds with elements of the folk music that had since 1905 been a source of increasing interest to him.
This definitive edition, supervised by Bartók scholar László Somfai, is the first-ever Urtext edition of this work. It takes into account both manuscript and printed sources, as well as letters and notes by the composer in which he recorded matters such as modifications to tempo markings. The Henle edition thus offers a musical text edited to the highest scholarly standards, with fascinating information on the work’s compositional history and performance practice.