Belcea Quartet plays Bartok: "A lifetime in one day"

Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:30am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Romanian violinist Corina Belcea-Fisher from the highly acclaimed Belcea Quartet feels right at home playing Bartok's quartets, a landmark of 20th-century music, even though the composer was Hungarian.

"Those rhythms, that I've grown up with, feel in my blood," the London-based first violinist of the Belcea (pronounced 'bel-chuh') Quartet says of her Romanian upbringing.

As well they should. Bela Bartok, born in Nagyszentmiklos in 1881, is Hungary's most famous 20th-century composer, but his homeland of Transylvania was ceded to Romania after Hungary's defeat in World War I.

Bartok spent his formative years scouring the Romanian countryside to record and preserve thousands of folk tunes, many of which eventually worked their way into his musical idiom -- the shifting rhythms, haunting melodies and even some of the dissonance that make Bartok's music sound like no other.

London audiences will get a rare treat on Sept 20 when the Belcea string quartet, with its blend of East and West European players, performs all six Bartok quartets on one day in the Wigmore Hall.

It will be intense and personal but rewarding because this monument of music encapsulates a life lived in a turbulent time.

Bartok was born into the relative innocence of the turn of the 19th century and died, despondent and nearly penniless, in self-imposed exile in New York in 1945.

"Bartok was one of the most important composers of the last century, he was a man of his time and the music reflects this because every period of his output is represented in this music," said Krzysztof Chorzelski, 36, the Polish violist.   Continued...