- Nov. 18, 2020
-- Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was not only a major composer in a post-Romantic extended tonal style, but he was also a superb pianist with a precise technique, a scholarly explorer of folk music, and a serious pedagog. Folk melodies and harmonies strongly influenced his music, both indirectly and often directly, including many of his orchestral and chamber works, as well as solo piano pieces ranging in difficulty from easy to virtuosic. His work For Children
was written for solo piano and originally published in four volumes. Two, comprising Book 1, contain 42 pieces after Hungarian folksongs; the other two, comprising Book 2, contain 43 pieces after Slovakian folksongs. For Children
is by no means pablum. Besides the usual purposes of music written for children, Bartók sought to broaden their musical experience with, for instance, modal and other scales, and harmonies outside the traditional western canon. Furthermore, For Children
was written when Bartók's folksong research was well under way and his notational efforts at their peak. It was his first extensive publication of folksong transcriptions, and includes the largest number of songs. It presents their melodies, style, and harmony in direct, easily apprehended form without the pianistic embellishment of even his simplest other folksong-based piano pieces.
Many of the songs included in the For Children
volumes are entirely or mostly for two voices, like Bach's two-part inventions in style if not structure or harmony, and thus convenient for wind duo and no more childish for Bartók than Bach. Many others are also more or less adaptable as duets, mostly by spreading the left-hand chords in time. John W. Pratt is creating wind duo arrangements of various of these Bartók piano pieces, in hopes of extending Bartók's pedagogical endeavors to benefit wind students. The first of these wind editions includes his arrangements of 23 pieces from For Children
's Book 2 (Slovakian folksongs) as duets for flute (or oboe) and clarinet. Though the notes may be easy to play, these pieces have a lot else to offer. Students, teachers, and every-day players can make as much of them as they like ... as simple tunes for beginners content to learn basic notes and rhythms, or as more advanced studies on articulation, musicality, etc. The publication is available from Noteworthy Sheet Music as a downloadable PDF at https://noteworthysheetmusic.com/sheet-music/ensemble-tags/winds/810-bartok-for-children-arr-for-wind-duo-or-trio