March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945
Bela Bartók was born in Hungary. He started playing piano at an early age. At first, he was taught by his mother; later he attended and graduated from the prestigious Budapest Academy of Music.
Bartók was very interested in the folk music of his native land and, with Zoltán Kodály, traveled throughout Hungary and other neighboring countries recording thousands of old songs. He wanted to use this music in a very natural way in his own compositions. You can hear the strong rhythmic patterns of the folk tunes and their unique sounds in many of his pieces. One of his most famous works is the Mikrokosmos, which consists of over 150 pieces for teaching piano that are based on Hungarian music.
In 1940, Bartók moved to the United States to escape from Hitler and Nazism. He settled in New York City with his wife, where he taught at Columbia University and continued to compose. His health was never good, however, and he had constant financial problems. He died in 1945.
Bartók’s music was not very popular during his lifetime, but after his death he became one of the most well known composers of the 20th century.