by Robert Leeper
In the years before the World War I, Béla Bartók traveled the countryside in his native Hungary and the surrounding areas collecting, cataloging, and even primitively recording folk music of the native peoples, traveling to Transylvania, Bulgaria, and even North Africa in pursuit of his ethnomusicological obsession. Not to be deterred by the war—when he was excused from military service for health reasons—the government sent him and his fellow collector, Zoltán Kodály, into military camps to collect folk songs from soldiers.
The Calder Quartet, an adventurous quartet conceived at the Thornton School at the University of Southern California, has been focusing on Bartok's string quartets this season at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Despite Bartók's small output of vocal works, the group has paid homage to the composer's journeys in search of his native folk music by featuring guests on each program who help the quartet to explore the vocal aspects of his music.
On Friday evening at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, the ensemble finished their quartet cycle by taking the stage with the entrancing Czech violinist, singer, and composer Iva Bittová, presenting a program including Bartók's Second and Sixth quartets, as well as songs and works by Leoš Janáček and Bittová, and free improvisations.