The Memorial House
The renowned house on
Csalán Road, which guards and promulgates the memory of
the greatest genius of Hungarian music, was built in the skirts
of the forests-hills of Buda in 1924. In those years, the neighbourhood,
with exuberantly splendid gardens and only a few houses, was
more a part of what we would call it today - a "landscape
protection district", than the noisy Capital. The composer,
who could not stand the clamour of the metropolis, the din of
machines and engines and the inquisitive and prying nature of
people, found an ideal home in the district rich in fragrant
fresh air and tranquillity only broken by the twittering of birds.
From 1932, the house and garden previously bearing the number
27, and later number 29 as historical fate will it so was Béla
Bartók's last residence in Hungary. Now it is a museum,
more precisely, it is a memorial site that attentively guards
Bartók's personal belongings and regularly evokes his
spirit through his music.
former hired house of Bartók was partly reconstructed
and converted into a memorial house by the capital city of Budapest
on the centenary of his birth, in 1981. At that time the renovation
of the three-storey villa house was rebuilt according to
the plans of the architect György Fazakas. On the ground
floor, an entrance that widens into a hall was made from the
former caretaker's compartment. A new and spacious external staircase,
which changes the façade of the house, was erected, and
an intimate chamber hall for concerts was formed by opening the
adjacent rooms on the first floor into one hall room. In the
three rooms on the second floor, where Bartók mostly lived
and worked, is the museum presenting photographs of the composer's
life and a small part of his furnitures and personal belongings,
all carefully protected by his successors.
The façade of
the house was provided with grid iron construction with imitation
ornaments of organ pipes and with a small door, not working.
A stone-surfaced cascaded
theatron was erected in the garden for outdoor concerts. Right
next to it stands the famed full size sculpture of Bartók
by Imre Varga, the reproductions of which can be found in Paris
Bartók's elder son,
the younger Béla Bartók gave great help to arrange the memorial
house in 1981,
with both financial contribution and
personal belongings, however he could manage to place only a
small part of the composer's material estate. Due to the narrow
space construction, practically only the workroom represented
a similar status to the
original version, the major part of the
estate was gathering dust in the stock-room.
In the following quarter-century
since opening, conditions of the Memorial House and the exhibition
have been significantly changed for the worse. As the younger
Béla Bartók has wished for a long time, to exhibit
the preserved pieces of his father's material estate at one place,
two years after his death, the composer's Hungarian legal successor,
Gábor Vásárhelyi initiated the renovation
and expansion of the Memorial House. In 2006 the successor had
the possibility to let the renovation and expansion works of
exhibition space make at his own expense and execution and to
present it as a gift in kind.
During the reconstruction the House almost retrieved its original
state, and the possibilty arised to exhibit Béla Bartók's
furniture and personal objects originally belonged to the house,
by the expansion of the successor's freely deposited part in
the Memorial House, thus almost the entire material estate became
possible to view for the visitors.
In this way, according to the plans of the interior designer Ágnes
Virághalmy and together with the architect Csaba Varga,
the complete House has been renovated for Bartók's 125th
birthday, the complete house has been renovated.
The new front-door with three leaves on the ground-floor was
designed and made by the handicraft artist József Pölöskei.
Though the external staircase because of its function had to
be stayed in its place, but the stair-baluster, adequate to Bartók,
was changed by the artistess based on a sample baluster of Károly
Kós. As a result of the interior design restoration, the
concert hall on the first floor regained its original windows.
Béla Bartók's furniture, which was originally belonged
to the house, has been moved to the three rooms on the second
floor, nearly in the same arrangement, as it used to be in the
time of Bartók, for which Péter Bartók's
drawings showing the arrangement gave help. Exhibition space
has been created in the loft, also based on the design of Ágnes
Virághalmy, where Bartók's remained personal belongings
were placed in vitrines.
The exhibition, and all legacy items are already at one place
call to mind the creator, the ethnomusicologist and the performer,
but in particular it recaptures the outstanding personality;
the man who wrote his masterpieces, the Sonata for Two Pianos,
the Contrasts, the Divertimento for Paul Sacher and the Chamber
Orchestra of Basel, and the Violin Concerto dedicated to Zoltán
Székely in the middle of the thirties right here, in this
tiny upstairs workroom, originally protected against the noise
of the outer-world by cushioned doors.
His brilliant chamber music pieces were also composed here, in
this extraordinary milieu of as well as richly carved furniture
by the Transylvanian craftsman György Gyugyi Péntek,
the magnificent folklore-relics collected by himself, decorating
the walls, his esteemed Bösendorfer piano and the phonograph,
an essential instrument for his daily ethnomusicologist work.
These musical pieces include the Twenty-Seven Choruses, fundamental
compositions for our choirs; Microcosmos, series of pieces related
to the piano teaching of his son Péter and to his pedagogic
activities; String Quartet No. 5; Quartet No. 6 of November,
1939 that mourns over the loss of his mother, but perhaps also
bids a spiritual and moving farewell to his homeland.
It is incontestable that the objects portrayed in Bartók's
home are embedded in his music: his sincere devotion to folk
culture and to the peasants, the eternal fondness for the objects
of nature, the insistent desire to understand the world, his
austere orderliness, and the near ascetic purity of his entire
Throughout the past more than thirty years, the Memorial House
has become the worthy home of Bartók's art: his works
for piano, chamber music pieces and classic compositions, that
may once have been played between these walls during his life,
are now regularly interpreted by the most prominent Hungarian
artists in the concert hall. Moreover, his spirit is worthily
represented by the music events presenting the latest contemporary
compositions and the introduction of the most eminent young musical
The house on Csalán way is the worldwide-acknowledged
meeting point of Bartók's admirers, the connoisseurs of
music, the young people, the musicians and those simply interested
in Bartók and his music. The memorial albums of the past
thirty years record a list of distinctive visitors, namely Paul
Sacher, Andor Földes and Yuriy Simonov.
Béla Bartók left this house on 12th October 1940
to work temporarily in the United States upon invitation. He
kept hiring the house in his belief that one day he could come
back among the walls again. But unfortunately he could finally
return to his homeland only in 1988, when his two sons brought
back his relics, which were buried in the Farkasrét cemetery.
Today his memory, art and personal belongings are preserved by
the House nr. 29 in the Csalán way.
János Szirányi - former director of the Memorial
Revised by Csaba Király - director of the Memorial House