Béla Bartók’s contributions to the pianist’s repertoire remain unsurpassed in the twentieth century. His published works for solo piano, counting individual selections and movements, total close to four hundred and span a complete spectrum from the most elementary teaching pieces to the most advanced concert repertoire. Although they reflect several centuries of musical style, they contain some of the most original compositional and pianistic idioms of our time.
His legacy for piano is not limited to composition. Bartók was a dedicated and conscientious teacher of piano, having published several influential methods and collections for teaching purposes. In addition, he is responsible for a number of editions of keyboard music, including the Well-Tempered Clavier of J. S. Bach, the complete piano sonatas of Mozart, keyboard works of Couperin and of D. Scarlatti, and his own arrangements for piano of organ works by several composers of the Italian Baroque. Bartók has also left an abundance of writings, lectures, and commentaries, much of it having to do with his own ideas on piano playing, teaching, and interpretation, especially of his own piano music. His musical thoughts also emerge from his many recordings, documenting years of his career as a performing pianist.
Bartók also published a vast supply of information that is helpful, often essential, to the proper understanding and rendering of his music. Probably his most important contributions are the multi-volume publications of several thousand folk tunes and texts from his findings in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, which provide melodic origins and helpful clues to the interpretation of his folk-oriented piano music.
A large array of biographies, symposia, dissertations, analytical guides, interpretive guides, and articles about Bartók give additional insights into his creativity and communication. Bartók’s piano music, especially his teaching material, is represented in more collections, anthologies, and teaching editions than that of any other twentieth-century composer for the piano.
It is precisely because of the enormity of Bartók’s output for piano and the quantity and diversity of material pertaining to it that those engaged in the study and teaching of his piano music are often overwhelmed by the prospect of choosing suitable literature for individual needs and abilities and of gaining access to materials that provide helpful insights into the study and performance of that literature.
Bartók for Piano consolidates this vast network of information pertaining to Bartdk’s piano music into a practical and convenient reference. It lists for each work the available editions, timings, difficulty ratings from both a technical and a musical standpoint, translations of the text if the piece derives from folk music, and commentary on Bartók’s own performance if the composer has recorded it. Where applicable I have included background information, quotes from Bartók, analyses, suggestions for performance and programming, and suggestions for further study. It is my hope that through this information the Bartók pianist will gain a better understanding of the composer’s piano music.
I wish to express my gratitude to the following: Elliott Antokoletz (University of Texas, Austin, TX), Tibor Bachmann (Béla Bartók Society of America), Werner Fuchss (Grandvaux, Switzerland), Maurice Hinson (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY), Béla Nagy (Catholic University of America, Washington, DC), Gyorgy Sdndor (Juilliard School of Music, New York, NY), Halsey Stevens (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA), and Benjamin Suchoff (Béla Bartók Archives, Lynwood, NY) for their professional advice and encouragement; István Berkes (Budapest, Hungary), Josef Fryščá (Ostrava, Czechoslovakia), Anna Hanusová (Brno, Czechoslovakia), Erika Péter (Budapest), Martha Schafer (Weimar, East Germany), and Tarina Smoláková (Prague, Czechoslovakia) for their help in translating foreign-language texts; and Washington State University for grant funding in my research for the project.