Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Clifton, Kevin. “Bartók’s Ironic Response to His Critics: The Significance of Quotation in the Allegro Barbaro.” International Journal of Musicology 9 (2000): 165-75.

Bartók’s use of Ravel’s “Scarbo” motive as the main folk-like theme in his 1911 piano work Allegro Barbaro, particularly his barbaric transformations of the motive, should be interpreted as a musical joke targeted at French critics. Allegro Barbaro can be considered as a representation of Bartók’s career because it reflects his formal musical training as well as his interest in folk music. Bartók’s education in art music is reflected by the influence of Debussy’s music, whereas his folk influence came from his interaction with the authentic Hungarian folk music that he collected. The first theme in the A section is distinctively composed in a Hungarian folk-like style, and in the B section, the barbaric folk style is dramatically transformed into the French art idiom through Bartók’s borrowing of Debussy’s “Minstrels” motive. This idiosyncratic source of borrowing should be viewed in an ironic and humorous light. Then, the barbaric, folk-like style immediately attempts to reassert its dominance over the French art style throughout the rest of the B section. The returning A section continues this dramatic play, with the French Impressionistic style further emphasized by “planing.” The reassertion of the Hungarian folk style comes immediately with the return of the tonal center of F-sharp.

Generally, Bartók’s quotations can be divided into four groups: the first is one in which Bartók borrows from his predecessors and contemporaries, the second includes programmatic and autobiographical quotations, the third contains humoristic quotations, and the fourth contains shopwork, in which he self-borrows. In Allegro Barbaro, Bartók employs the third group, and he conveys an ironic narrative.

Works: Bartók: Allegro Barbaro, Sz. 49 (165-71).

Sources: Ravel: “Scarbo” from Gaspard de la nuit (165-66, 168-71); Debussy: “Minstrels” from Préludes, Book I (170).

Index Classifications: 1900s

Contributed by: Nicolette van den Bogerd, Jingyi Zhang

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