Lajos Kossuth, the great revolutionary leader who led the fight -- though unsuccessfully -- for his nation's independence, was revered by Bartók and his Magyar compatriots for fostering the cause of Hungarian statehood. Kossuth (1903), Bartók's ten-section symphonic poem inspired by the patriot's exploits, chronicles Kossuth's attempts to liberate his homeland. In one of the most characteristic aspects of his style, Bartók uses echoes of folk and dance music to reveal the true, noble Magyar character; at the same time, distorted strains of the Austrian national anthem suggest the martial machinations of the imperialists. Bartók contrapuntally combines these themes in a manner that effectively creates tension and which undoubtedly stirred the emotions of the Hungarians who first heard the work; its premiere, which occurred during a revival of Hungarian national feeling, was a great success. The battle scenes are particularly compelling; a great clashing of sounds signals the fierce fighting, and then the resulting catastrophe, as the Magyar soldiers are overwhelmed by their enemies. The work winds down into quietude, evoking the melancholy of a terrible loss.
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Description by Steve Horowitz