A Folk Celebration

« previous episode | next episode »

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bela Bartok using a gramaphone to record folk songs sung by Czech peasants (Paul Griffith’s A Concise History of Modern Music / Wikipedia Commons)

Folk music has served as inspiration to almost every composer in history. But when Béla Bartók came along, he took the folk influence to a whole new level.

Bartók began to take an interest in Hungarian Folk music around the turn of the 20th century. At this time he was in his early twenties and eager to discover his unique musical voice. From May through November 1904, Bartók stayed at a resort in northern Hungary, dividing his time between composing and practicing the piano. It was there that he heard a young woman from Transylvania singing folk songs in the room next door. The composer copied down the songs and later wrote to his sister: "Now I have a new plan: to collect the finest Hungarian folk songs and to raise them, adding the best possible piano accompaniments, to the level of art-song".

This marked a new direction in Bartók, and changed his voice forever. With his mentor, Zoltán Kodály, Bartók toured the villages of his native land, and recorded authentic folk music on the phonograph. Afterwards, he would harmonize and notate the songs. He composed many folk-inspired works and Hungary's influence became prevalent in most of his work. This includes the string quartets, the Concerto for Orchestra, the Seven Choruses with Orchestra Accompaniment, among many others.
 
This week on the Choral Mix we hear the music of Bartók along with works by Aaron Copland, Mark O'Connor, John Rutter and Veljo Tormis.

What is your favorite folk-inspired choral work?

Playlist:

Old American Songs
Aaron Copland
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Salt Lake City, UT

"Let Us Move" from Appalachian Sketches
Mark O’Connor
Gloria Dei Cantores
Elizabeth Patterson, conductor
Cape Cod, MA

Seven Choruses with Orchestra Accompaniment
Béla Bartók
Chamber Chorus of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music
Budapest Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati, conductor
Budapest, Hungary

Songs of the Ancient Sea

Veljo Tormis
Estonian National Male Choir
Olev Oja, conductor
Talinn, Estonia

"O Waly, Waly" from I have had singing

arr.John Rutter
Chanticleer
Joseph Jennings, director
San Francisco, CA

"Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal" from Appalachian Sketches
Mark O’Connor
Gloria Dei Cantores
Elizabeth Patterson, conductor
Cape Cod, MA

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Comments [3]

Michael Meltzer

Without Kent Tritle, most of us would never hear most of these wonderful pieces.
Thank you again, Kent!

Oct. 01 2012 01:22 AM
Robert W Crumb from San Francisco, CA

You asked about favorite folk inspired choral work, for me it is American traditional spiritual "What Wondrous Love."

Sep. 30 2012 07:38 PM
Gary Ekman from Manhattan/NYC

I'm intrigued -- it was O Waly, Waly but it sounded like The River is Wide. A bit of Sunday morning Google research is in order. Whatever it was, it was pure and sublime for Sunday morning. Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal is also wonderful.

Sep. 30 2012 07:59 AM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.