String Quartet No. 6 (Bartók)
The work is in four movements:
- Mesto – Vivace
- Mesto – Marcia
- Mesto – Burletta
- Mesto – Molto tranquillo
Each movement opens with a slow melody marked mesto (sadly). This material is employed for only a relatively short introduction in the first movement, but is longer in the second and longer again in the third. In the fourth movement, the mesto material, with reminiscences of the first movement material, takes up the entire movement. It can be seen from Bartók's sketches that he originally intended ending with a lively dance-like finale; however, upon learning of the death of his mother, he re-wrote the last movement as a deeply sad elegy.
This was the last piece that Bartók wrote in his native Hungary, and had things turned out differently it might have been his last of all, as he found it hard to compose in the United States, where he had fled to escape World War II. However, a commission from Serge Koussevitzky, led to him writing his Concerto for Orchestra, and he wrote a small number of other pieces after that, as well as making a few sketches for a seventh, never completed, string quartet.
The work is dedicated to the Kolisch Quartet, and it was they who gave its premiere at the Town Hall in New York City on 20 January 1941.  The work was first published in the same year by Boosey & Hawkes.