Béla Bartók was a Hungarian pianist and composer who added a great deal to our world through his creativity. He started playing piano as a tiny child, and knew 40 songs by the time he was four—and gave his first public recital , including an original composition he’d written two year earlier, when he was eleven.
Bartók went on to become a famous composer who not only wrote his own music, but also went out around the countryside gathering folk music, which he often worked into his compositions. While he was collecting music from the Székely people in Transylvania he learned about Unitarianism.
He liked the idea of a creative religion that was less about following rules and more about connecting with all aspects of life. He eventually joined a Unitarian church in Hungary, and attended with his son.
With the rise of a fascist government in Hungary and the approach of the Second World War, Bartók fled to the United States. He was safe there, but felt lonely and disconnected from his homeland, and it was hard for him to continue to write music. But when he was diagnosed with leukemia and knew that he did not have very long to live, his creative energy returned in a burst and his last compositions are often considered his greatest.
To learn more about Bartók and listen to some of his music, visit the NPR story, “Béla Bartók: Finding a Voice Through Folk Music”
Music: Béla – Evening in the village
Here is one of Bartók’s compositions, titled “Evening in the Village.” The tune comes from a folksong, which is called the “ancient Székely anthem.” The pictures in the video were almost all taken in Transylvania, where Bartók discovered Unitarianism. (The one with the gate was taken in Máriabesnyő, a famous shrine in the outskirts of Budapest.)