Longing to Belong: Nationalism and Sentimentalism in the Second Violin Concertos of Bartók and Szymanowski

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The second violin concertos of Szymanowski and Bartók exemplify nationalism’s ambivalently link with sentimentalism. Bartók asserted that ‘peasant’ music is ‘anti-sentimental’ in its primitivistic objectivity and avoidance of leading notes. Bartók invoked the contrast between rural authenticity and urban artifice. But as with so many binaries, the boundaries are unstable, with specific fluidity in the nationalist imagination. Bartók’s Ssecond Violin cConcerto (1938) aimed to re-connect with his domestic audience through sympathetic union duringin anxious times. Recalling the leading-note idiom of his Ffirst Vviolin Cconcerto, it builds to a climactic moment of sentimental expression. Szymanowski praised Tatra music as a counter to the ‘exaggerated sentimentality’ of the romantic ‘epigones’. Like Bartók, he publicly sought in ‘real’ folk music an alternative to this sentimentalism in his Second Violin Concerto. But privately he described the concerto as ‘horribly sentimental’ and like Bartóok he recalls an apparently lost style to express a sentimentalism that hardly dare speak its name.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolski Rocznik Muzykologiczny
EditorsIwona Lindstedt
Place of PublicationWarsaw
PublisherMusicologists Section of the Polish Composers' Union/ PWM Edition
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

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