Béla Bartók – Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117 (1937–38)

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Béla Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117 was written in 1937–38.

Bartók composed the concerto in a difficult stage of his life, when he was filled with serious concerns about the growing strength of fascism. He was of firm anti-fascist opinions, and therefore became the target of various attacks in pre-war Hungary.

Bartók initially planned to write a single-movement concerto set of variations, but Zoltán Székely wanted a standard three-movement concerto. In the end, Székely received his three movements, while Bartók received his variations (the second movement being possibly the most formal set of variations Bartók wrote in his career, and the third movement being a variation on material from the first).

Though not employing twelve-tone technique the piece contains twelve-tone themes, such as in the first and third movements.

The work was premiered at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam on March 23, 1939 with Zoltán Székely on violin and Willem Mengelberg conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra.

It had its United States premiere in Cleveland, Ohio in 1943, with Tossy Spivakovsky on the violin accompanied by The Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Artur Rodziński. Spivakovsky later gave the New York and San Francisco premieres of the work.

Allegro nnon troppo
Andante tranquilo
Allegro molto

Violín: Yehudi Menuhin

Philharmonia Orchestra

Director: Wilhelm Furtwängler

Recorded in 1953.

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