Bartók Letter to Zádor, 1945

The following handwritten letter from Béla Bartók to Eugene Zádor is currently on display in the Hungarian National Museum. (Translation follows.)


July 1, 1945
89 Riverside Drive
Saranac Lake, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Zador,

Thank you for your June 19th letter. Somebody approached me about this same matter exactly one year ago. To that person I answered that I would like to do it in theory but I need to get more details from Mr. Schildkret. I haven’t heard about it since then until your letter arrived. Now I tell the same thing to you: I would like to do it in theory but I need more details. To be precise:

1) what are we talking about: an orchestral composition, or a vocal composition (choir, or a choir with soloists, or doesn’t it matter?), or an orchestra with choir? If it is only an orchestral piece (you in your letter mention a “Prelude”), then how exactly are the Biblical characteristics of the piece to be achieved?

2) Is there a deadline?

3) a) I assume we are talking about merely the transfer of the rights for audio recording on a disc, in which case the composition naturally must not be published, because if it is published according to the wise Zwang license system anybody else may make a recording of it. b) Selling the copyright: exactly how long (5 years, 10 years, forever) are we talking about?

4) For me it would be somewhat complicated to transfer the rights to print it to Mr. Schildkret, because I have an exclusive contract with Boosey & Hawkes for the printing. However if I don’t give a composition to B&H, in that case I am free to have it recorded on grammophone if, when and how I wish. I have retained that right.

Therefore I ask detailed information from Mr. Schildkret (my address will be active until the middle of September, after that my address will be 309 West 57th New York).

From Hungary I get extremely depressing news about tremendous destruction, famine and menacing chaos. You see plenty of original Hungarian newspapers arrive – probably via the Russian embassy – at a local communist newspaper, which makes facsimile copies available; also a few among my acquaintances receive news via private channels. As I see, we can’t even think of going home. No transportation, no Russian visa. But even if there would be a way, I think it would be wise to wait and see which way things are going. God knows how long it will take until the country can in some way pull itself together, and how much I would like to go home, but forever.

I send you many greetings and remain yours faithfully,

Béla Bartók