Worlds Contending: Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra
Although the Concerto for Orchestra is Bartók's largest orchestral composition and one of the last works, it has received comparatively little attention in the scholarly literature. One reason for this may be the suggestion that it is artistically inferior, a compromise for the sake of financial success and public acceptance. This position is challenged through an examination of the circumstances surrounding the commission of the work, and its relation to Bartók's biography.
The main body of the thesis deals with the music itself in a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of nine analytical approaches--the extent of serious criticism on the Concerto. Some of theses analyses are more successful than others in discussing the work in a meaningful way. More importantly, the interaction of theses analytical methods allows for the emergence of a pattern in the music which is not evident to the same degree in any of the individual analyses. The interaction of these diverse approaches to the Concerto, which both confirm and contradict each other at various times, provides a wider analytical perspective through which it becomes possible to suggest that the Concerto for Orchestra is characterized by a dynamic principle of conflict or "Worlds Contending," from the title of a poem by Bartók. Thus, an understanding of the work is heightened by the extension of the analytical perspective.