Béla Viktor János Bartók

The highlighted window is/was Bartók's apartment
Bartók died in 1945, spending his last 5 years in America while his Europe was consumed in War; we being a "safe haven" of sorts.  He lived the last of his years at 309 W. 57th Street, probably then in an apartment with a view.

I ran into him musically on LP's of some of his more accessible works.  A childhood friend, Garby Leon (http://opusonemedia.blogspot.com/2014/04/giuoco-delle-coppie-garby-leon.html) had the score to his Concerto for Orchestra that became one of my early attempts at memorization.  In the early 70s, the Chicago Symphony held a conducting/audition competition and Bartok's Dance Suite was on the menu, again from memory.  That was an ouch experience but I did get to meet Georg Solti, the great conductor and as memory has it, he studied with Bartok in Hungary well before the war.  No surprise that Bartok's works were the audition pieces.

In 2000, I had some business at the CBS broadcast center, also on West 57th but down the hill and closer to River.  After one meeting, I walked up the hill toward 7th Avenue, was hungry, and stopped in a then Blimpie for a sub (now a Subway Sandwich), and went outside to eat. I ran smack dab into this:


I don't want you to think this was one of those great "aha! moments" because it wasn't.  I did wonder though if the doors/entrance were the same as they were 55 years ago and what it must have been like for him, living modestly but paycheck to paycheck in New York during the war that was eating his homeland alive, watching while the Nazis wipe out a vast portion of central European culture that he, Bartok, worked so hard to preserve and bring to light.

309 W. 57th sits on a long steep hill up from the Hudson River and about halfway up that slope to the subway...probably a brisk walk, then over to 59th and the Local A train up to Columbia where he worked for several years.  He was by no means obscure as his talent was a well known commodity, but these were the war years, he was sick with leukemia, and it just must have been tough.

All this was brought on by a violinist friend of mine of 40 years who published a musical selfie of some of Bartok's music on a music stand....
Stacy Beane from Lexington took this photo and
I stole it from her without asking.
The music is as difficult as it looks.  I suspect that it reflects a good deal on Bartok's last years.  Perhaps.


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