Béla Bartók (25 March 1881 – 26 September 1945) was a composer, pianist, and ethnomusicologist from Hungary. He is recognized as one of the most influential twentieth-century composers, with Franz Liszt, as Hungary's finest composer. He was one of the pioneers of comparative musicology, which subsequently became ethnomusicology, via his collecting and analysis of folk music. On March 25, 1881, Bartók was born in the Banatian town of Nagyszentmiklós in Hungary (now Sânnicolau Mare, Romania). The Bartók family, on his father's side, was a Hungarian lesser noble family from Borsodszirák, Borsod. His paternal grandmother was a Bunjevci Catholic who identified herself as Hungarian. Béla Bartók (1855–1888) was Bartók's father. Paula (née Voit) (1857-1939), Bartók's mother, was of German descent but spoke fluent Hungarian. She was born in Turócszentmárton (now Martin, Slovakia), and her ancestors were Hungarian and Slavic.
Béla showed early signs of musical ability: his mother claims he could tell the difference between various dance rhythms she played on the piano before he could talk in total words. He could play 40 pieces on the piano by four, and his mother started officially training him the following year.
Béla was a sickly kid who had severe eczema until he was five years old due to a botched smallpox vaccination injection, and his facial deformity caused him to shun others. His father, the director of an agricultural school, died unexpectedly when he was seven years old in 1888. Béla and his sister, Erzsébet, were then transferred to reside in Nagyszls (now Vynohradiv, Ukraine) and subsequently Pressburg (Pozsony, present-day Bratislava, Slovakia). Béla performed his first public recital at the age of 11 at Nagyszls to acclaim. His first work, written two years before, was a little piece called "The Course of the Danube," which he performed. László Erkel accepted him as a student soon after.
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