The String Quartet no. 3 is the shortest of Béla Bartók’s six Quartets, and was also composed in a remarkably short time. He wrote the score in September 1927, and in the following December it won him the first prize, endowed with $300, in a composition competition. The Third Quartet, published in 1929, captivates through its concentrated intensity: in a playing time of just 15 minutes, Bartók ignites a veritable fireworks of string timbres and rhythmic refinements. Even the uncompromising critic Theodor W. Adorno was impressed, describing this Quartet as “unquestionably the best of this Hungarian’s works thus far”.
For their edition, László Somfai and Zsombor Németh examined contemporary performance material. Their resultant suggestions for authentic performance variants are given here in footnotes. Further information is provided in the obligatory “Notes on performance practice” in Henle’s Bartók editions.
- String Quartet no. 3 (BB 93)
About the composer
This composer, who numbers among the most important musical figures in the first half of the twentieth century, is known principally for his research into Hungarian folk music, the elements of which he incorporated into his style. His broad oeuvre includes numerous works for orchestra, piano, and chamber ensembles, as well as choral music; songs with piano accompaniment; and an opera.
|1881||Born in Nagyszentmiklós on March 25. First piano instruction from his mother.|
|1893–ca. 1896||Piano studies with László Erkel in Pressburg (Bratislava).|
|1899–1903||Studies piano and composition at the Budapest Academy of Music. Symphonic poem “Kossuth” in 1903.|
|from 1905||Together with Zóltan Kodály he begins scientific field research into Hungarian folk music and thereby refutes conventional notions. He becomes acquainted with the music of Debussy.|
|1905–07||Suite No. 2, Op. 4, for small orchestra.|
|1907–34||Professor of piano in Budapest.|
|1908–09||“For Children,” 85 transcriptions of folk songs for piano, later only 79.|
|1915–17||String Quartet No. 2, Op. 17, with percussive playing techniques.|
|1917||Premiere of his ballet “The Wooden Prince.”|
|1918||Premiere of “Bluebeard’s Castle,” Op. 11 (composed 1911), partially based on the sounds of French music.|
|1920||Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20.|
|1926||Performance of the pantomime “The Miraculous Mandarin.” Piano cycle “Out of Doors.”|
|1926–39||“Mikrokosmos” for piano (six volumes).|
|from 1934||Editor of the complete edition of Hungarian folk music.|
|1936||Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta as avant-garde work.|
|1937–38||Concerto (No. 2) for violin and orchestra.|
|1940||Emigrates to the United States.|
|1945||Piano Concerto No. 3; his concerto for viola remains unfinished. Death in New York on September 26.|