Bartók - Contrasts
Commissioned by famed clarinetist Benny Goodman, Béla Bartók’s Contrasts could hardly be a better representation of the twin dichotomies present both in Bartók’s mature style and in Goodman’s fascination with classical music. Bartók was known for drawing heavily in his compositions from the Hungarian folk music that he studied and preserved as a musicologist, and each of the work’s three movements reflect this influence. Traditional Romanian and Hungarian folk tunes are the basis of many of the melodies, and the shifting rhythms are typical of Hungarian dance music. At the same time, he makes use of a complex tonal system incorporating elements of bitonality and atonality, and these features are evident in Contrasts, as the music shifts back and forth between tonal and contemporary harmony. The resulting changes in style, harmony, and expression led Bartok to the work’s eventual title, Contrasts. (An earlier version of the work was performed with the title Rhapsody.) Goodman, on the other hand, made his name in jazz, which had grown out of the tradition of “hot music,” a popular style of performing and embellishing folk tunes in the American South after the turn of the century. Known as perhaps the greatest jazz clarinetist of the 20th century, Goodman also had significant impact in the classical world, commissioning and premiering Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto and Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in addition to Contrasts, and recording many other important classical works for clarinet. As artists whose work involved both popular and classical influences, Bartók and Goodman shared a clear affinity with one another, and both pushed popular melodies and styles to new heights. Nowhere is this more evident than in Contrasts, a classical work that could equally recall the folk dances of Hungary or the wild, improvisatory feel of early 20th-century “hot music” and jazz dance halls.
Composers Bela Bartók
Instruments Clarinet, Piano, and Violin
Recorded Date 02-12-2015