UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A performing analysis of Bela Bartok's Three Burlesques, Op. 8c Crino, Erika


Between 1908-19 11 Bela Bartok composed over one hundred pieces, considering only the piano solo repertoire. Bartok was particularly attached to many of these early works: he performed them throughout his career, he included some of them in his 1929 recording and, twenty years later, he also orchestrated five of the piano pieces from this period as the Hungarian Pictures. At the time of the composition of the Three Burlesques, Bartok had recently graduated from the Budapest Academy both in piano and composition. A young composer in his twenties, he was still very much in search of his own voice. Accordingly, most of these early works are quite short, and many are character pieces that explore a single compositional device. An extremely gifted pianist, Bartok was at the time in need for repertoire to perform during his many concert tours, and many of these pieces were in fact born from this need. In the period just preceding the composition of the Three Burlesques, Bartok discovered and started studying the musical traditions native to the rural areas of his country, later expanding his field of interest to include Bulgaria and Slovakia. The influence of folk-songs, evident in all of his mature musical output, is already manifest here. The Three Burlesques, Op.8c, unfortunately not very often performed today, are three short descriptive pieces, each experimenting harmonically within a traditional ABA form. They are technically demanding and successful in performance, and the second piece of the set, “Slightly Tipsy”, clearly shows the influence of Bartok’s folk-song research. This thesis addresses issues of particular interest to a performer, such as very practical problems of balance between the hands, harmonic consequences created by alternative choices in voicing, and problems in the interpretation of melodic material. This thesis explores also some practical observations that are evoked by the physical act of playing these pieces at the piano and goes on to connect this commentary on gestural aspects to the programmatic content described by each title.

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