"Throughout my entire life, in every aspect, at all times by all means I will serve only one objective: the benefit of the Hungarian Nation and the Hungarian homeland."

/Béla Bartók/

Way up to the Memorial House

Memorial House

Memorial House

Memorial House

View from the 3rd floor of the Memorial House to the Buda mountains

Photo: János Dozvald,
György Erki, Aliona Frank, György Gáti, Csaba Király,
Kata Kovács, Gábor Módos, György Pálffy, Csilla Simon, Ágnes Szél, János Szentiváni, József Tóth, Gábor Vásárhelyi,
István Vidovics

© Bartok Bela Memorial House 2007-2017


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.

The 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 and London.

Bartók's elder son, the younger Béla Bartók gave great help to arrange the memorial house in 1981, with both financial contribution and deposit 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 being.

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 entrants.

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.


Author: János Szirányi - former director of the Memorial House