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Born: 1881, Nagyszentmiklós, HungaryDied: 1945, New York

"I cannot conceive of music that expresses absolutely nothing."

In his early years, Bartók was heavily influenced by the exotic music of French composer Claude Debussy, but his passionate and painstaking research into the native music of Hungary and the surrounding regions was to change his own music profoundly. The element of rhythm pervades his later works, which combine startling harmonies and vivid orchestral colors with an intensity that makes them immediately identifiable. His gifts as a pianist led him to produce a body of keyboard music of great distinction.

Further listening:

Duke Bluebeard's Castle (opera, 1911)

Christa Ludwig, Walter Berry, London Symphony, István Kertész (Decca)

Piano Concertos No. 1 (1926), No. 2

(1930-31), No. 3 (1945)

Yefim Bronfman, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen (Sony Classical)