Bela Bartok piano music

Boosey’s Bartók Bonanza

Sheet Music Review

Along with their outstanding new version of The First Term at the Piano – which I recently reviewed here – Bossey & Hawkes (in conjunction with Hal Leonard) have just released a couple more Bartók collections: a complete edition of For Children, and the Bartók Piano Anthology.

Here’s a look at each of these additions to the Bartók catalogue…

For Children complete

The New Definitive Edition of Bartók’s seminal For Children was published in two volumes back in 1998 (Volume 1) and 2000 (Volume 2), edited by the composer’s son Peter Bartók.

Written around the end of the first decade of the 20th century, these pieces were originally published in four volumes, the first two containing a total of 42 pieces based on Hungarian folk tunes, the third and fourth comprising 43 pieces based on Slovakian folk tunes. Bartók revisited the work in 1943, by which time he was resident in the USA, making minor revisions to several pieces and removing six altogether. The new version was published by Boosey & Hawkes in 1946 after the composer’s death.

Peter Bartók’s edition of the 1990s was essentially a re-engraving of the 1943 version, and is certainly as “definitive” as it gets. The Yellow Book 1 and Green Book 2 have served students well over many years now, and are a rich source of outstanding musical and pedagogic material for players from around Grade 1-4. Naturally, many of these pieces have also been selected in other compilations and for exam syllabi over the years, and will be familiar to readers here.

Many of these pieces also appeared in The Definitive Bartók Edition: Piano Collection Books 1 and 2 which I reviewed here upon their publication in 2016.

Now Boosey & Hawkes have made the sensible decision of combining both books of For Children into a single volume, comprising the full 79 pieces. While many of the pieces were freshly engraved for The Definitive Bartók Edition: Piano Collection Books 1 and 2, this new publication retains the engraving of the Peter Bartók 1998/2000 editions, along with the cover illustration, this time rendered in burgundy:

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Volumes 1 and 2 remain available separately, but I’ve tended to find that few students purchase both. This new edition offers a more cost-effective solution, which also allows teacher and student the opportunity to select the best pieces from across the complete work.

Being picky, a side-by-side comparison of this new compendium with the two separate volumes suggests that the new version has somewhat lower printing and paper quality (although not to an extent that is genuinely problematic).

And although the music typesetting and pagination are the same, the overall book is four pages shorter than the combined length of the two separate volumes; this is because the introduction and textual commentary appear in much smaller print here.

In conclusion though, and despite these very minor niggles, this is a brilliant publication. Over the last quarter century, the vast majority of my students have been introduced by this greatest of 20th century composers through his pieces For Children, and now having the complete set in one volume is a genuine boon.

Teachers will now need to think carefully which publication to recommend – the separate volumes or combined version of For Children or the The Definitive Bartók Edition: Piano Collection Books 1 and 2. Not an easy choice – but I would strongly recommend making sure at least one of these books is in every student’s music collection!

Bartók Piano Anthology

Adding to the complexity of selecting Bartók sheet music purchases, the new Bartók Piano Anthology might easily have been called The Bumper Book of Bartók. At a massive 280 pages it might recall the Dover Edition publications were it not for the rather stark black cover:

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This isn’t a Greatest Hits publication however – rather it is a compendium of selected works from across Bartók’s output, as follows:

  • For Children (complete)
  • Allegro barbaro
  • Romanian Folk Dances
  • Romanian Christmas Carols
  • Suite Op.14
  • Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs
  • Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs
  • Dance Suite
  • Out of Doors
  • Nine Little Piano Pieces
  • Three Rondos on Folk Tunes

This is a quirky selection, with beginner pieces nestling between post-diploma concert war-horses such as the Dance Suite and Allegro Barbaro. Obvious omissions, meanwhile, are the Sonata, the Sonatina, the 14 Bagatelles, the Petite Suite and of course the Mikrokosmos.

Regular readers will know of my penchant for Bartók and not be too surprised to learn that I have most of the included works in their previous editions, from which I can see the engraving has been lifted for this anthology. So here we once again have an identical reproduction of Peter Bartók’s pristine 1998 edition of For Children I alongside the more dated and dense looking 1925 original of the Dance Suite piano transcription, licensed from UE.

In some cases the licensed versions aren’t the most up-to-date – for example the Romanian Folk Dances use the 1918 UE source rather than Peter Bartók’s 1993 revised edition (also UE). That said, the differences are in typesetting rather than basic accuracy – I think it’s fair to say that all the editions bound together in the Bartók Piano Anthology are reliable and useful.

In terms of general presentation, the printing quality here is good, and the paper is better than I might have expected too. Only time will tell how durable the binding is, and as you might expect, it isn’t always easy to use as a performing edition without bending the spine back quite firmly.

I do rather wonder who this collection is for, given it offers such a broad range of music for players of very different abilities. But if you are in the market for a bumper book of Bartók that includes the listed works, there is no doubt that this anthology offers a decent cost-effective way of acquiring a lot of scores.

Both collections are available from all standard music retailers.

Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a pianist, writer and teacher based in Milton Keynes UK. He runs a successful independent teaching studio and music education business, Keyquest Music.