Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko will also take the stage – Photo: wikipedia

MÜPA festival marks 140th birthday

International artists celebrate Bartók

International stars, world premières and concerts broadcast from Europe's renowned concert halls will be highlights of a new festival celebrating 20th-century composer-pianist Béla Bartók that will be launched this spring.
15. March 2021 14:20

The festival will be called Bartók Spring International Arts Weeks and will mark the 140th anniversary of Bartók’s birth in Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary (now Sînnicolau Mare, Romania), on March 25, 1881. It is being organised by the Palace of Arts (MÜPA) in Budapest and will be presented by live streams free of charge between April 2 and 18.

The CEO of MÜPA Budapest, Csaba Káel, said a unique series of events will embrace total art for culture lovers. The festival will offer a glimpse into Bartók’s amazing oeuvre but is not restricted to only music written by the world-famous composer. Káel said it is much more Bartók’s spirit, creativity and artistic outlook MÜPA wishes to depict across countless genres ranging from contemporary classical music to world music, jazz, dance, the fine arts and popular music, through works by the very finest artists in Hungary and abroad.

Taking the stage will be such luminaries as Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko and the London-based Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hungarian classical composer and pianist György Kurtág, Hungary’s Kelemen Quartet, Belgian countertenor and conductor René Jacobs and the Kammerorchester Basel (Basel Chamber Orchestra) from Switzerland, Makám musical group of Hungary, Hungarian pop-rock band the Bagossy Brothers Company, Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási, the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Szeged Contemporary Dance Company, Hungarian singer Charlie, Ballet Pécs, Riccardo Chailly and the Filarmonica della Scala from Italy, the Hungarian National Dance Ensemble, Hungarian harpsichordist, conductor and Orfeo Orchestra and Purcell Choir founder György Vashegyi as well as the orchestra and the choir, Hungarian violinist Félix Lajkó, the Ballet Company of Győr and the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir with Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

Káel said the festival will present several of the composer’s works and will attempt to reflect on Bartók’s spirit in many genres of art. In the opening event on April 2, An Evening of Bartók, two pieces, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Sz. 106, BB 114 and Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 123, will be performed by Henrik Nánási, the Hungarian National Philharmonic and the Szeged Contemporary Dance Company.

On April 7, renowned Hungarian contemporary composer György Kurtág’s opera “Fin de partie” (Endgame) will have its Hungarian premiere. For the full program see

The international stars will stream their performances from a famous venue in their cities, for instance the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from the Royal Albert Hall in London, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir from the Sheldonian Theatre’s Concert Hall in Oxford, René Jacobs and the Kammerorchester from the Paul Sacher Concert Hall in Basel’s Don Bosco Music and Culture Centre, and Riccardo Chailly and the Filarmonica della Scala from Milan.

It is a tradition in Hungary that Bartók’s birthday is celebrated each year with performances of his works in many of the country’s concert halls. A Gala Celebration Concert with Pinchas Zukerman and the MÁV Symphony Orchestra will be broadcast on MUPA’s website and YouTube channel on his birth date, March 25, 2021 at 7.30pm to mark the 140th anniversary.

The MÁV (Hungarian National Railways) orchestra will perform Kodály’s “Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7”, Bartók-Serly’s “Viola Concerto, Sz. 120, BB 128” and Bartók’s “Divertimento, Sz. 113, BB 118”. The conductor will be Gábor Takács-Nagy, with Zukerman on violin and viola and Amanda Forsyth on cello.

Bartók’s father, director of an agricultural college, was a talented amateur musician. Bartók’s mother gave Béla his first piano lessons when he was 5 years old. After his father’s death in 1888, his mother went to work as a piano teacher. Eventually she settled in Pozsony (now Bratislava, Slovakia).

In 1899 Bartók entered the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest, devoting himself to the study of the piano. The music of Richard Strauss inspired his first major composition, “Kossuth” (1903), a symphonic poem. Bartók was appointed professor of piano at the Royal Academy in 1907, a position he held for the next 30 years. In 1909 he married Marta Ziegler, one of his pupils. After their divorce in 1923 Bartók married Ditta Pásztory, another pupil.

An interest in the folk songs of the Hungarian peasants led him to travel the countryside, collecting and recording melodies. Their influence soon became evident in many of his own compositions, for instance “Duke Bluebeard’s Castle” (1911); “The Miraculous Mandarin” (1919) and the “Dance Suite” of 1923.

Although his works were not popular in Hungary, Bartók’s reputation was growing abroad. During the 1920s and 1930s he performed his own piano compositions on tour in Europe and the United States. Some of his best-known works include “Cantata Profana” (1930), his fifth and sixth string quartets (1934, 1939), and a sonata for two pianos and percussion (1937).

In 1940, because of the growing Nazi influence in Hungary, the Bartóks left for the United States, where the composer’s health began to fail and he suffered severe financial difficulties. The popular “Concerto for Orchestra” (1943) was one of his last completed works. On September 26, 1945, Bartók died of leukemia in a New York City hospital.

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