History of the Archives


The Bartók Archives of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences – originally a multi-profile musicological research institute – was opened on September 25, 1961, in the Castle district of Buda (Országház utca 9., Budapest I, in the neighborhood of the present location), under the directorship of Bence Szabolcsi. The Bartók Archives proper was an independent department of this institute. Denijs Dille, a Belgian Bartók expert, sought out for this post by Zoltán Kodály, became its first Director. The so-called “Bartók Hagyaték” (Bartók estate), owned by Béla Bartók Junior (d. 1994) but deposited as a permanent loan to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, formed the kernel of the collection. This was extensively enlarged with material from Bartók’s Hungarian publishers (Rozsnyai, Rózsavölgyi, etc.), and private collectors, including Mrs. Emma Kodály. Unfortunately, the Archives was practically cut from the American sources. As a result of the policy of the Budapest and New York Bartók archives, aggravated by cold-war politics, family and legal matters, for two and a half decades the autograph sources were available for the international community of scholars and the public only to a very limited extent.

In 1972 László Somfai, first Dille’s assistant (1963–), became the Director of the Bartók Archives. In 1984 the Bartók Archives, as part of the enlarged and renamed Institute for Musicology (incorporating Kodály’s one-time Folk Music Research Group too), moved to its present address.

In 1987–88, after the death of Bartók’s widow Ditta Pásztory (1982) and the following legal procedure, the former New York Bartók estate and archives came into the hand of the younger son of the composer, Peter Bartók, who sent photocopies of the primary sources of the compositions to the Budapest archive in 1988 in order to aid the work on the preparation of the complete critical edition and related studies. As a result, in the Budapest Bartók Archives the complete basic primary source material is either accessible to the qualified scholar or information on the whereabouts of the here missing documents is available.

Former members of Somfai’s staff from the 1970s–80s who accomplished crucial Bartók studies include Vera Lampert (Brandeis University, Library), Tibor Tallián (Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; F. Liszt Academy of Music), András Wilheim (Budapest), Klára Móricz (Amherst, Mass.), Adrienne Gombocz (editing Bartók's letters), Sándor Kovács (folk-music collection), and László Vikárius (source studies).

In the first period of the institute the six-volume series of Documenta Bartókiana and a thematic catalogue by Denijs Dille of the juvenile compositions established a new standard in source-oriented Bartók documentary studies. A close contact with performance practice, advising recording projects, and the edition of Bartók’s complete recordings also belong to the profile of the archive. The Bartók Archives, although not linked with a university, due to the unique material and the expertise of its fellows, continuously support graduate and postgraduate studies (including Ph.D. dissertations). Recently the study of Bartók’s compositional process and the foundation of complex projects are in the forefront of the archive’s activity: the preparations of sample volumes for the Béla Bartók Complete Critical Edition, and the production of the Bartók Thematic Catalogue.

In 2005, László Vikárius became head of the Bartók Archives.