program notes by composition > A > Allegro Barbaro

Allegro Barbaro

Béla Bartók/arr. Tom Wallace

Allegro Barbaro is a short, dance-like composition typical of Bartók's style, utilizing folk elements with Hungarian and Romanian scales. Hungarian peasant music is based on the pentatonic scale, while Romanian music is largely chromatic. To keep the edge of freedom and wild force, Bartók frequently breaks the flow in a peremptory way to scare us a little with a potential for violence. The irregular-seeming cadences ending the major phrases and sections catch you by surprise or make you wait a bit for each return to the attack. The dynamics are jagged and shocking as well through the entire piece.

Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was one of the most important musical figures of the 20th century. He wrote and performed many works for piano, as well as for orchestra and ensembles. Born in the kingdom of Hungary, Bartók displayed early musical talent. He studied piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest where he went on to teach. He recorded and studied folk melodies from the Hungarian countryside, as well as in Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia, Croatia and Algeria. His compositions fused the essence of Hungarian folk music with traditional music to achieve a style that was at once nationalistic and deeply personal. Strongly opposed to the Nazis, he reluctantly emigrated to the U.S. a few years before his death.

Last updated on November 16, 2015 by Palatine Concert Band