365 Days, 365 Files: Béla Bartok – Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta

I took a music class that bundled a trio of cassette tapes with the textbook. This was back in 1991, when CD players were starting to achieve their ubiquity. Textbooks bundled with CDs wouldn’t happen till the following year.

I wish I had taken that class a little later in my college career. Those cassettes are long gone, and they provided a really great cross section of European music from the Renaissance all the way to the late ’80s.

One of the pieces on those tapes was Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta by Béla Bartok.

The instrumentation of the piece was a draw all its own — strings and percussion aren’t a very common combination, and throwing in a celesta makes it all the more distinct.

Those textbook cassettes included a performance of the piece’s fourth movement, the most lively of the set. I remember my sister saying she liked the piece, even though everyone in my family could barely tolerate all the 20th Century stuff I kept inflicting on them.

(It was my form of teenage rebellion — Kronos Quartet played the kind of music that seemed to offend everyone for whom I played it.)

I’m not as intimately familiar with the rest of the piece as I am with the fourth movement.

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