Bartók: Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin & Piano (Mvt I + II)
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Uploaded on Oct 13, 2007
Yehudi Menuhin (violin) and Jeremy Menuhin with Thea King, clarinet.
Bartók: Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin & Piano, Sz. 111
I. Recruiting Dance. Moderato, ben ritmato
II. Relaxation. Lento
go here to see the last movement:
Filmed at the ORTF, Paris, 03/12/72
by Eric Tishkoff:
What started in August 1938 as a casual conversation between József Szigeti and Benny Goodman very quickly turned into a significant chamber work by one of the world's leading composers, Béla Bartók (1881-1945). Szigeti, a pre-eminent violinist of the time, sent the request to Bartók-although, it was the world-renown jazz clarinetist Goodman who officially commissioned (i.e., paid for) the work. In his letter, Szigeti requested a duo for clarinet and violin with piano accompaniment, consisting of two contrasting movements, 6-7 minutes in duration, with cadenzas for both the clarinet and violin.
Szigeti was probably expecting a short, flashy show-tune, in which case, he got much more than he bargained for. Janos Karpati writes (Bartok's Chamber Music, Stuyvesant, NY, Pendragon Press, 1976, p. 476) "Despite the commission, Bartók composed not what is known as a concert piece, but a chamber-music work, a worthy cousin of the string quartets and sonatas, which in both its material and structure follows the laws of chamber-music form."
Contrasts is a three movement work nearly three times the duration of the original request. The music is an amalgam of abstracted Hungarian folk music combined with Rumanian dance melodies, Bulgarian and Greek meters, and a highly personalized, first-class command of 20th century compositional techniques. The second movement was omitted from the first performance. Apparently, Bartók was trying to adhere strictly to the original commission for two movements. However, internal evidence convincingly suggests that the middle movement was conceived along with the other two.
Verbunkos, the first movement, is based on a dance, and characterized by a bouncy rhythmic figure (dotted eight-sixteenth) and passages that alternate between slow determination and medium agitation. The second movement, Piheno (relaxation), is purely atmospheric. Its lack of a strong pulse stands in contrast to the driving beats in both the outer movements.
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