Bela Bartok lived through both World Wars. We pick up this week’s blog with Bartok at the time of WWI. During this war, he was unable to travel – something he had done quite frequently to gather a variety of folk music. He returned his focus to composing at this point, writing a ballet and his second string quartet.
The years following brought more composing, performing, teaching, his divorce from Marta, his marriage to Ditta, and the birth of his second son, Peter. He also resumed some of his travelling to gather and study folk music.
In 1940, Bartok decided to immigrate to the US. He loved Hungary and the Hungarian people. He was not in favour of the fact that Hungary sided with Germany with the Second World War and his political views caused him some trouble. He sent his manuscripts out of the country first. And then he and Ditta emigrated from Hungary to the US. Two years later their son, Peter, joined them. Peter served in the US army and went on to become a sound engineer after the war. Bartok’s older son, Bela III, chose to stay in Hungary. After surviving the war, he became a railroad official.
He officially became a US citizen in 1945 not too long before his death. Though he was not well-known in the US as a composer, he continued to compose up until his death. He also taught, and worked on a collection of Serbian and Croatian folk songs for Columbia University with Ditta.
Becoming increasingly ill from 1940 onwards, he was eventually diagnosed with leukemia but unfortunately too late for anything to be done. He passed away in September of 1945. He was buried in Hartsdale, New York initially. In 1988, his remains were moved to Budapest where he was interred after a state funeral was held in his honour.