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Bela Bartok's (1881-1945) reputation as a key figure in twentieth-century music is well-established, but to understand the singular nature of his genius and the originality of his contribution, this biography is essential reading. The wide range of illustrations, showing contemporary photographs of people and events, help to bring the reculsive composer to life, and his story is set firmly into its social, cultural and historical contexts. Born into the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bartok worked through his youthful nationalism to a clearer understanding of his native culture, setting off with his friend Zoltan Kodaly to record the folklore of Hungary before it was destroyed by the march of progress. He ventured further into Romania and North Africa in pursuit of original cultures. These sounds and experiences helped him to find his voice as a composer. Despite his nationalism, however, Bartok was a humane and moderate man, whose distaste for authoritarian rule brought him into conflict with a crypto-Fascist government in Hungary and with the Germany of Adolf Hitler. While composing some of his outstanding works, he felt increasingly pressured and in 1940, after the death of his beloved mother, he tore himself away from Hungary and migrated to the United States. Homesick, short of money and stricken with leukaemia, he composed the magnificent Concerto for Orchestra and, on his deathbed in 1945, was completing a poignantly nostalgic Third Piano Concerto. He had never compromised his ideals, nor lost his innocence.