Violin Concerto No. 2 (Bartók)

Béla Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117 was written in 1937–38. During the composer's life, it was known simply as his Violin Concerto. His other violin concerto, Violin Concerto No. 1, Sz. 36, BB 48a, was written in the years 1907–1908, but only published in 1956, after the composer's death, as "Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. posth."

Bartók composed the concerto in a difficult stage of his life, when he was filled with serious concerns about the growing strength of fascism. He was of firm anti-fascist opinions, and therefore became the target of various attacks in pre-war Hungary.

Bartók initially planned to write a single-movement concerto set of variations, but Zoltán Székely wanted a standard three-movement concerto. In the end, Székely received his three movements, while Bartók received his variations: the second movement is a formal set of variations, and the third movement is a variation on material from the first.[1]

Though the piece does not employ twelve-tone technique, it contains twelve-tone themes, such as in the first and third movements:

Bartók's twelve-tone theme from the Second Violin Concerto's first movement[2] About this soundPlay 

The work was premiered at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam on March 23, 1939 with Zoltán Székely on violin and Willem Mengelberg conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra.

It had its United States premiere in Cleveland, Ohio in 1943, with Tossy Spivakovsky on the violin accompanied by The Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Artur Rodziński. Spivakovsky later gave the New York and San Francisco premieres of the work.[3]


It has the following three movements:

  1. Allegro non troppo
  2. Andante tranquillo
  3. Allegro molto

The concerto is scored for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, side drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tamtam (gong), celesta, harp, and strings.[1]


  1. ^ a b Phillip Huscher, "Béla Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 2". Chicago Symphony Orchestra program notes, 2006. Chicago Symphony Orchestra website (Archive from 27 September 2007, accessed 4 March 2012).
  2. ^ Arnold Whittall, The Cambridge Introduction to Serialism. Cambridge Introductions to Music. (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 152. ISBN 978-0-521-68200-8 (pbk).
  3. ^ Allan Kozinn, "Tossy Spivakovsky, 91, Violinist Who Created Bowing Technique", New York Times (obituary) (27 July 1998).

Further readingEdit

  • Somfai, László. 1977. "Strategics of Variation in the Second Movement of Bartók's Violin Concerto 1937–1938". Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 19, Fasc. 1/4:161–202.
  • Ujfalussy, József. 1971. "Is Bartók's Concerto for Violin Really His Second?" Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 13, Fasc. 1/4:355–56.

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