Mikrokosmos Heresy

So of all the composers in the twentieth century it seems that Bartok is the one we piano teachers revere the most, and of all the works for students of the piano ever written by Bartok we reserve our highest regard for that collection of the pieces he wrote for the lessons he gave to his son, Peter: the Mikrokosmos. It’s systematic, it’s progressive, it was written for the composer’s own nine year old son, it’s designed to be used from the very beginning (Bartok’s own words), it draws on the folk music of a wide area of eastern Europe (at least we think it does) and it represents a very ‘modern’ (in that first half of the 20th century sense) way of playing the piano. What’s not to like? And yet, whenever I speak with piano teachers about the Mikrokosmos the same guilty secret is whispered all over the land: we respect this collection above all others, and yet

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