Béla Bartok wasn’t just interested in exploring and experimenting in new harmonic languages. He wanted to teach them. His interest in folk music also contributed to the composition of this pedagogical collection, which draws from various Eastern European and Middle Eastern musical traditions. At the request of German violinist Erich Doflein, Bartok organized the duos into progressively more difficult exercises for young violinists to learn the rhythmic and harmonic complexities of modern music.
Later, Bartok would collect piano exercises he had been composing for years, and arrange them similarly into the collection “Microkosmos.” The four feisty tunes we just heard all bear the title “New Year’s Greetings,” but are scattered throughout the volume, rather than following each other in order.