Piano Concerto No. 1 (Bartók)

The Piano Concerto No. 1, Sz. 83, BB 91 of Béla Bartók was composed in 1926. Average playing time is between 23 and 24 minutes.


For almost three years, Bartók had composed little. He broke that silence with several piano works, one of which was the Piano Concerto, composed between August and November 1926.[1]


The work was premiered at the fifth International Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Frankfurt on July 1, 1927, with Bartók as the soloist and Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting.[2]

The scheduled 1927 American premiere in Carnegie Hall by the New York Philharmonic, on a tour by Bartók, was canceled by conductor Willem Mengelberg due to insufficient rehearsing. Bartók's Rhapsody had to be substituted into the program.[3] The Concerto eventually premiered in the USA on February 13, 1928 in the same venue, with Fritz Reiner conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Bartók as the soloist.[2][3]


The concerto comes after an increased interest in Baroque music on the part of Bartók, which is demonstrated by such devices as the increased use of counterpoint. The work, however, retains the harshness and dissonance that is characteristic of Bartók. Here, as elsewhere in Bartók's output, the piano is used percussively.[2] The importance of the other percussion instruments is illustrated by Bartók’s note:

The percussion (including timpani) must be placed directly next to the piano (behind the piano).

This note is omitted in a number of printed scores, restored in recent printings.[4]

Bartók wrote of the concerto: "My first concerto [...] I consider it a successful work, although its style is up to a point difficult, perhaps even very difficult for the orchestra and the public."[5][contradictory]


The concerto is scored for an orchestra consisting of a solo piano, two flutes (one doubling on piccolo), two oboes (one doubling on cor anglais), two clarinets (one doubling on bass clarinet), two bassoons, four horns (in F), two trumpets (in C), three trombones, timpani, two snare drums (one with snares and one without), bass drum, four cymbals, triangle, tamtam, and strings.


  1. Allegro moderato – Allegro
  2. Andante – attacca
  3. Allegro molto



  1. ^ Petazzi
  2. ^ a b c Allsen.
  3. ^ a b Anonymous.
  4. ^ Somfai, p. 274.
  5. ^ Bartók, unknown article published in 1939, as quoted in Petazzi


  • Allsen, Michael (2005). "Béla Bartók (1881–1945) Concerto No.1 for Piano and Orchestra". Madison Symphony Orchestra Program Notes November 18–19–20, 2005. Madison Symphony Orchestra. Archived from the original on 5 January 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2005.
  • Anonymous (September 27, 1945). "Bela Bartok Dies in Hospital Here". New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  • Petazzi, Paolo (1979). Bartók: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2. Liner notes to DGG 415 371-2 (Maurizio Pollini piano, Claudio Abbado conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). Translated into English by Gwyn Morris.
  • Somfai, László (1996). Béla Bartók: Composition, Concepts, and Autograph Sources. The Ernest Bloch Lectures in Music 9. Berkeley and London: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-08485-8.