Béla Bartók is widely considered one of the leading composers of the twentieth century. Born in rural Hungary in 1881, Bartók displayed musical talent early in life, and could play a number of pieces on the piano by the age of four. He was formally taught piano by his mother from the age of five, and gave his first public performance at the age of 11, after which László Erkel accepted him as a pupil. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest, where he met fellow composer Zoltán Kodály, who became a lifelong friend.
Much of Bartók’s music combines the folk music of his native Hungary with modernist musical techniques of the twentieth century. His harmonic language manages to combine elements of sometimes atonal dissonance with modal scales, and many of his works show extensive use of dance rhythms.