Violin Concerto No. 1 (Bartók)

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Violin Concerto
No. 1
by Béla Bartók
Composed1907 (1907)–08
DedicationStefi Geyer
PerformedMay 30, 1958 (1958-05-30): Basel
Published1956 (1956)

Béla Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 1, Sz.. 36, BB 48a was written in the years 1907–1908, but only published in 1956, after the composer's death, as "Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. posth." It was premiered on 30 May 1958 in Basel, Switzerland.


The concerto was dedicated, as was Othmar Schoeck's concerto for the same instrument, to the violinist Stefi Geyer, with whom Bartók was in love. Geyer could not reciprocate Bartók's feelings and rejected the concerto. It was revived after both Bartók and Geyer had died. Geyer's copy of the manuscript was bequeathed to Paul Sacher to be performed by him and Hansheinz Schneeberger. The concerto was later championed by David Oistrakh. Acclaimed recordings include Oistrakh with Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducting, as well as versions by Maxim Vengerov and György Pauk.


The composition strays from the path of the traditional concerto, having two rather than three movements:

  1. Andante sostenuto
  2. Allegro giocoso

Far from being an innovation, the two-movement form is the traditional design of the rhapsody: a slow movement followed by a fast one. Bartók had already used this form in 1904 for his first concertante work, the Rhapsody, Op. 1, for piano and orchestra (Mason 1958, 15).

Bartók used the Andante as the first of the Two Portraits, Op. 5, representing Stefi Geyer. It has been speculated that the second movement is a self-portrait of the composer (Mason 1958, 12).

The retrospective assignment of "No. 1" to this concerto (and the consequent redesignation of the Violin Concerto Bartók composed in 1936–39 as "No. 2") has met with some resistance, especially from Hungarian scholars and musicologists, on grounds that the composer had "annulled" this concerto, not only by excluding it from his list of mature works but also by extracting the first movement and reworking it in 1911 as the first of Two Portraits, Op. 5. The objection has also been made that, even though an early String Quartet, composed in Pozsony, and an early Sonata for Violin and Piano have been published, the traditional numberings of the String Quartets and the Violin Sonatas have not been changed (Ujfalussy 1971, 355–56).


  • Mason, Colin (1958). "Bartók's Early Violin Concerto". Tempo, new series, no. 49 (Autumn): 11–16.
  • Ujfalussy, József (1971). "Is Bartók's Concerto for Violin Really His Second?" Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 13, Fasc. 1/4:355–56.

External links[edit]

  • Huscher, Phillip (2004). "History of the violin concerto and relation to the Two Portraits". Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Archived from the original on 20 June 2004.