The Source Materials for Bartòk's Suite for Two Pianos, Op. 4b (1941)

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The familiar biographical outlines of Béla Bartók’s American years rarely grant much attention to the Suite for Two Pianos, Op. 4b, which the composer transcribed from the Second Orchestral Suite in the fall of 1941. Bartók and his wife performed the new transcription three times in early 1942. This article examines the source materials for the two-piano Suite, on deposit at the Sacher Foundation in Basel, Switzerland, from the collection of Peter Bartók. Seven illustrations show various stages of the transcription process. Even a brief glance at the source materials shows Bartók actively composing in 1941, a fact which complicates the traditional biographical narrative that he stopped composing for three-and-a-half years from 1939 to the summer of 1943. Although the Suite, Op. 4b, was published only in 1960, and was understandably slow to gain acceptance by later pianists, it no longer remains at the periphery of the repertory. Properly accounting for it in future studies of Bartók’s American years will result in a more accurate representation of his experience.

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Taylor & Francis

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Contemporary Music Review