Bela Bartok: Guitar Transcriptions

for guitar transcribed by Jozsef Eotvos

60 pages

Recorded by the transcriber, see here


Romanian Folk Dances

An Evening at the Village

Bear Dance

Allegro Barbaro

For Children (excerpts)


Bartók and guitar

For many, the name and the instrument may seem a strange pairing, since Bartók did not compose
for this instrument... Is it possible? Is it allowed?
In the relationship between the composer and the performer, the instrument is an intermediary,
a medium which, when fit for purpose, transmits the composer’s message to the listener in the
same way the original instrument does. Compliance is of course conceivable within given physical
(physiological?) and acoustic limits, but I believe that a convincing, authentic interpretation by the
performer can work wonders. If we define music as a language, the success of a transcription / music
translation depends only on the translator (transcriber) and the performer. It takes faith, love and
deep musical roots, and a miracle is born.
I believe in this miracle, and I believe I am not alone.
Béla Bartók (Nagyszentmiklós, 25 March 1881 – New York, 26 September 1945) was one of
the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. His work as a composer, scholar
and performer is of epoch-making importance for universal music history and culture. His works,
with their universal meaning and weight, highlights us, Hungarians for the entire world, and in
these works we often recognise ourselves. Nothing is better proof of his message, which transcends
musical instruments, than the many arrangements and transcriptions of his works that were written
during his lifetime and after his death, for various chamber ensembles or orchestras, but also for
many solo instruments, including guitar.
We, Hungarian guitarists have so far played the works of the piano series “For Children”, transcribed
by Ferenc Brodszky or László Szendrey-Karper. In chamber music, we have the “Romanian
Folk Dances”, transcribed for flute-guitar or violin-guitar. During my studies in Germany, I realised
that on the one hand only we, Hungarians are familiar these transcriptions, and on the other hand,
how much the public and professionals love these works! Sometime in the early 2000s, I put some
of Bartók’s piano works in front of me to see what could be transcribed for guitar.
To my surprise, some of the works very quickly took to the instrument, including “An Evening in the
Village” and “Bear Dance” sounding almost born for guitar in no time at all, followed by the “Romanian
Folk Dances” and “Allegro Barbaro”! Playing the latter work on guitar may seem strange and unbelievable
due to the dynamic limits of the instrument, but the opportunity is given, so it is worth giving a
try! Even if one doesn’t manage to perform it in concert, simply getting to know this wonderful music
through one’s own fingers, can be a great gift by itself!
Finally, I also selected the aforementioned “For Children” series, and transcribed some of the
movements that I felt might bring me closer to the original Bartókian ideas.
The titles of the items were taken from both the available practical editions and, for example, the
four-language titles of the “Romanian Folk Dances”, from the academic compendium now being published.
There are many places where one can read about the works and their origins; space does not allow
a detailed discussion of them here, but one can find important information and interesting additions in
the publications of musicologists and researchers.
I first performed these works in front of an audience during my tours in Japan, and in 2004 I made
a recording of them, which I published for the first time in 2016. Most of the guitar transcriptions
of these works by Bartók are now available for the first time.
As a Hungarian, it is always a special feeling to play Bartók’s music. But – even if this strong
Hungarian thread is missing – the universality of Bartók’s music speaks to everyone in the world
with equal intensity, across languages and nations. I believe and hope that through these transcriptions
many will come to like, or even more, love this wonderful music.

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Bela Bartok - Transcriptions for guitar solo

  • Product Code: sheet music
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