A forthcoming biography from Yale University Press makes the provocative observation that the great composer suffered from a form of autism. It’s an interesting angle, not altogether far-fetched, but you wonder whether a professor of music and technology is best equipped to make a defensible medical diagnosis at a distance of seven decades. We await the evidence with some anxiety.
Book and author blurb below.
This deeply researched biography of Bela Bartok (1881-1945) provides a more comprehensive view of the innovative Hungarian musician than ever before. David Cooper traces Bartok’s international career as an ardent ethno-musicologist and composer, teacher, and pianist, while also providing a detailed discussion of most of his works. Further, the author explores how Europe’s political and cultural tumult affected Bartok’s work, travel, and reluctant emigration to the safety of America in his final years. Cooper illuminates Bartok’s personal life and relationships, while also expanding what is known about the influence of other musicians-Richard Strauss, Zoltan Kodaly, and Yehudi Menuhin, among many others. The author also looks closely at some of the composer’s actions and behaviors which may have been manifestations of Asperger syndrome. The book, in short, is a consummate biography of an internationally admired musician.
David Cooper is professor of music and technology, and dean of the Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications, University of Leeds. His publications include Bela Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra and numerous chapters and articles on aspects of Bartok’s life and works. The author lives in Liversedge, UK.