## 1-3 Sonata For 2 Pianos And Percussion (1937)
## 4-7 Suite For 2 Pianos Op.4b (1941)
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In his brief autobiography, first published in 1918, Bartok describes the fruitful nature of his contact with popular folk music: "This study of peasant music was of prime importance to me, since it allowed me to break free from the hegemony of the system of major and minor modes." A few pages later he adds that audiences were now witnessing the "rejuvenation of highbrow music thanks to elements of peasant music which, in the course of recent centuries, has not been subjected to the influence of the great works of music." It was in this spirit that Bartok wrote his Second Suite for small orchestra between 1905 and 1907. The First Suite for full orchestra, completed in 1905, had met with a lively success, but its successor, ushering in a new period in the composer's art, was greeted with coldness and indifference, a fate which was to attend many of Bartok's subsequent works. Bartok was particularly fond of this Second Suite and in 1941 decided to arrange it for two pianos in a version which he and his wife often performed on their concert tours together. In 1943 he further revised the orchestral version. The Second Orchestral Suite was originally to have been called "Serenade" and this title was retained for the opening movement of the final version. Structurally, this Comodo is based on two themes, which are conceived in such a way that they can be superimposed at the end of the movement. The second movement is notable for its inclusion of a 100-bar fugal development, while the third movement, headed "Scena della pustza", opens with an a unaccompanied melody whose melancholy strains recall popular Hungarian songs of the period which, however well-known they were at this time, were not part of the folkloristic tradition. The final movement is imbued with elements of a folkloristic character. In 1937 Bartok embarked on plans to write a large-scale work for piano and percussion which would form a contrast with the shorter pieces of Mikrokosmos which he was close to completing. He had already been fascinated by the combination of piano (which is itself a percussive instrument and often used as such by Bartok) and percussion. In the slow movement of the First Piano Concerto, for example, the soloist is accompanied only by percussion and woodwind.
Bartok himself described the genesis of his Sonata for two pianos and percussion as follows: "For some years now I have been planning to compose a work for piano and percussion. Slowly, however, I have become convinced that one piano does not sufficiently balance the frequently very sharp sounds of the percussion. Accordingly, I decided to revise my initial idea and place two pianos together with the percussion. When the International Society for Contemporary Music in Basle invited me, last summer, to write a piece for their concert on 16 January 1938, I seized the opportunity to realise my project." Preoccupied by the problem of balance in a work which requires a complex synchronisation between the percussion intruments and the pianos, Bartok gave detailed instructions on the way he wanted the instruments set up and included a diagram in the 1942 edition of the score showing where they should be positioned. These details attest to the lengths to which Bartok went in his desire to create a perfect balance. The Sonato for two pianos and percussion was premiered by Bartok and his wife, Ditta, and was enthusiastically received, the success encouraging him to rearrange it in 1940 for two pianos, percussion and orchestra. The Sonata is in three highly contrastive movements, the first of which is particularly impressive. From a slow pianissimo introduction punctuated by sudden forte interruptions, a theme emerges which acts as a germ cell for the whole of this opening section. A progressive acceleration leads to the principal theme, which bursts forth with savage joy. The slow movement contains numerous percussive effects which surround and support the lyrical monologue of the main theme, while the third movement, which is cast in sonata-rondo form, opens with an acoustic scale, the notes of which derive from the series of natural harmonics.