NEW TO YOUTUBE | The Knights Perform Bartók's Romanian Christmas Carols

To help celebrate Béla Bartók's birthday today, the New York-based ensemble released this new arrangement

(Photo credit: Shervin Lainez)


Hungarian Pianist and composer Béla Bartók was born on this day in 1881.

To honor this musical giant, The Knights perform here Bartók's Romanian Christmas Carols, Sz. 57.

The work is a set of traditional Christmas songs from Romanian villages, habitually sung by small groups of children and adapted for the piano in 1915 by Bartók.

Led by conductor Eric Jacobsen, this orchestrated version was arranged by Michael P. Atkinson, a Knights member.

“My original plan for the longer track was to write a characterful version of The Twelve Days of Christmas in a style similar to what Charles Ives had done with Variations on America," Atkinson said. "Not too long after that plan was made, the YouTube algorithm presented me with an absolute gem of work that I had not heard before and did not know existed — Bartók’s Romanian Christmas Carols for solo piano!"

When he set out to orchestrate the piece, he channeled his adolescent passion for Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, which at age 13, was the only piece of music he listened to with a score for 3 months.

"That imprint, along with a subsequent revisiting of his small ensemble oeuvre guided my process, and I am confident in the authenticity of the result," he concluded.



The Knights evolved from late-night chamber music reading parties with friends at the home of violinist Colin Jacobsen and cellist Eric Jacobsen. The Jacobsen brothers — who are also founding members of the Brooklyn Rider string quartet — serve as artistic directors of The Knights.

Incorporating in 2007, the orchestra is flexible in size and repertory and has toured consistently across the United States and Europe.