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Bartok's First Violin Concerto Premiered in 1958

The world premiere was given by Swiss violinist, Hansheinz Schneeberger, 50 years after it was written


Born in 1881, Hungarian composer Béla Bartók made his public debut as a pianist at age 11 and attended Budapest's Royal Academy of Music where he studied composition and piano with László Erkel, János Koessler, and István Thoman.

Bartók's reputation as a great pianist began to spread throughout the academy, specifically praised for his performances of Liszt's works. His contemporaries at the Budapest Royal Academy of Music included fellow composer Zoltán Kodály, with whom he later collaborated to collect Hungarian folk songs in order to transcribe and analyze them.

Among Bartok's many works is his Violin Concerto No. 1, written in 1907-1908. It premiered many years later on May 30th, 1958, when it was performed by Swiss violinist Hansheinz Schneeberger. The concerto was dedicated to Stefi Geyer, an accomplished violinist Bartók had fallen in love with. Geyer did not feel the same way about Bartók and rejected not only him but the concerto as well.

As a result, the concerto was left in a drawer for more than fifty years without anyone being aware of the work. Geyer did not tell anyone about the existence of the concerto until she was on her deathbed leading to the work's posthumous publication.

The form of the concerto itself differs from the conventional form in that it has two movements as opposed to three. The two-movement structure is one of a slow movement followed by a fast one. Bartók uses this identical rhapsodic form in his Op. 1 Rhapsody for piano and orchestra.

Bartók used parts of the first movement as the first of the Two Portraits, Op. 5, representing Stefi Geyer. It is speculated that the second movement is a self-portrait of Béla Bartók himself.





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