We continue our look at some of the women connected to composers this week with Paula Voit, the mother of Bela Bartok. Paula was her son’s first music teacher. He displayed an interest and talent for music from a very young age and she started teaching him piano at the age of five.
Paula was born in 1857 to parents Moritz and Terezia in what is now Slovakia. Her parents both died when she was young and by sixteen she was on her own. She trained as a teacher and was a pianist as well. With her teacher training complete, at the age of 19 she moved to the south of Hungary to take a teaching position. Her decision to move there was partly influenced because her brother lived near to where she would be teaching.
Bela senior was the director of an agricultural school and connected with Paula’s brother. Paula taught piano lessons to Bela Sr. sisters. At the age of 23, in 1880, Paula and Bela senior were married. Eight years later, in 1888, Bela senior died. At 31 years of age, Paula was left to raise two young children on her own, the oldest being Bela junior at the age of 7. An influential figure in young Bela’s life, she would impress upon her family the importance of personal integrity and modesty.
This resilient woman lived until 1939, passing at the age of 82 in Budapest.