Bela Bartok Papers

Finding Aid Prepared by Henry Rowen
August 2001

Date Range: 1941-1943
Size of Collection: 1.5 linear ft (3 boxes)
Date of Acquisition: Gift of Bela Bartok , 1943, 1944; Transferred from central Files, 1981
Terms of Access: Available for faculty, students, or researchers engaged in scholarly or publication projects.
Restrictions on Use or Access: Reader must use microfilm copy for Turkish folk music and Rumanian folk music. Original mss. of these two titles may not be consulted or used without the permission of the librarian for rare books and manuscripts. Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the Librarian for Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Processing Information: Processed by Henry Rowen


       Béla Bartók, musician composer and ethnomusicologist was born in Nagyszentmiklós Hungary on March 25 1881. As a young composer inspired by the Hungarian Nationalist movement of the early 1900s Bartók sought his musical roots in the songs of the Hungarian peasant. By 1906, he was touring his homeland taking notes and recording. He later expanded this fieldwork to the folk music of Rumania Slovakia and Turkey. In 1907 Bartók received an appointment at the Budapest Academy of Music, which allowed him to continue his study of ethnic music while teaching and composing. By the 1920s he was an internationally known figure because of concert performances and recordings of his own compositions as well as his publications on folk music. In 1940 alarmed by the spread of fascism Bartók and his second wife, the pianist Ditta Pasztory immigrated to America. Columbia University awarded Bartók an honorary doctorate in 1940. The University also provided Bartók with funding to transcribe the recordings of Serbo-Croatian folk songs held in the Parry Collection at Harvard University. He was able to publish the results of this work, but by 1943 his health was failing and he could no longer continue at the University. He was diagnosed as suffering from leukemia from which he died in New York on September 26 1945.


       The collection consists of cataloged correspondence dating 1940-1943 that is primarily concerned with Bartók's association with Columbia. This is followed by manuscripts on the folk music of Rumania, Turkey, and Serbo-Croatia. The Rumanian and Turkish manuscripts were prepared for publication and published by Bartók's estate. The Serbo-Croatian material consists of tabulation to Serbo-Croatian folk songs found in the Parry Collection. There is also a microfilm of Rumanian Christmas songs.

Cataloged Correspondence, 1940-1955

Note: The letters deal with Columbia University's conferral of an honorary doctorate and Bartók's employment as a Visiting Associate in Music. There is also information relating to Bartók's immigration and his efforts to have his son join him.
1 Bartók, Béla
     New York, 1940-1943
     12 letters with related items
1 Halifax, Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, Earl of.
     Washington, DC., 1942
1 Moore, Douglas
     New York, 1940-1941
     2 letters, with related items
1 Lang, Paul H. and George B. Pegrain
     New York, March 18, 1942
     Nomination for appointment to position of Visiting Associate in Music
1 Concert in Honor of Béla Bartók
     Columbia University, September 26, 1955
     Program, press release, clipping

Folk Music

1       2-5 Rumanian Folk Music
     Vol. I, Instrumental Melodies
2       1-6 Rumanian Folk Music
     1) Vol. I, Instrumental Melodies
     2-6) Vol. II, Vocal Melodies
3       1-4 Rumanian Folk Music
     1-2) Vol. II, Vocal Melodies
     3-4) Vol. III, Text
3       5-6 Turkish Folk Music from Asia Minor
3       7 Tabulation to Serbo-Croatian Folk Songs
     Colinde (Christmas Songs)