Friday, July 6, 2012

Béla Bartók: Complete Chronological Catalogue

Do you remember the music in Kubrick's Shining, when Danny first rides past and notices room 237 on his tricycle? That's Béla Bartók's Music For Strings, Percussion & Celesta, which also can be heard when Wendy and Danny walk into the hedge maze for the first time; and when Danny goes up to his room to retrieve his fire engine.

Béla Bartók (1881 - 1945) is one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Liszt and Ligeti, as Hungary's greatest composer (though Liszt barely spoke the language, and his Hungarian Rhapsodies have more to do with Gypsy bands rather than Hungarian folk music). Through his collection and analytical study of folk music, he was one of the founders of ethnomusicology.

Bartók transcribing folk music from an Edison phonograph, ca. 1910s.

This playlist was compiled after the chronological list of compositions on Wikipedia (sorted by Sz number; also including works not in Szőllősy's catalogue). From Scherzo-Fantasie (1897) to the unfinished Viola Concerto (1945). Two completions of the latter are included. The six string quartets, a monumental achievement of 20th century music, were taken from six complete sets. For the lovely Romanian Folk Dances, in addition to the original piano version, I also put in four arrangements, including the violin & piano version recorded by Szigeti and Bartók in 1930. They also made the recording of Contrast (for clarinet, violin & piano) used in this playlist, together with Benny Goodman. For The Miraculous Mandarin, an arrangement for 2 pianos made by the composer is also included. Hungaroton's complete Bartók edition is not completely on Spotify (and out of print elsewhere), so a few early and obscure works are missing.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Béla Bartók: Complete Chronological Catalogue (692 tracks, total time: 35 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. You can find an introduction to Bartók from the Musically Speaking series at the beginning of the playlist.


  1. I'm really enjoying discovering Bartok's very early piano music, much in the mold of Richard Strauss. Have you considered a chronological catalog of another guy who spans late Romantic to early modern in an interesting way: Julius Rontgen, for my money one of the most underappreciated composers of the late 19th-early 20th century?

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