Due to Hungary’s linguistic isolation, geographic position, and intermittent periods of political oppression, few of the country’s finer cultural assets, including its folk music tradition, were ever exported westward. As Bartók’s music is steeped in that very same folk tradition, it should come as no surprise that many performers today have difficulty understanding the true nature of his music. Simply put, in order to understand Bartók’s music, one must first understand the folk idiom that inspired it. Only then can an authentic interpretation of Bartók’s music be achieved. This is especially true when dealing with compositions such as the Rhapsodies for Violin, where the folk idiom is presented in some of its purest forms. Beyond the virtuosic technical demands of the Rhapsodies, the assimilated folk style (and the idiosyncratic notation used to communicate it) creates the most complex set of challenges for the performer. The purpose of this article is to bridge the gap between scholars and performers, with the hope that a more authentic and thoughtful interpretation of the Rhapsodies might be possible.
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