Eugene Sirotkine, internationally renowned pianist and conductor, will perform in a benefit concert for the Bartók cabin on Tuesday, August 6, 7:30PM at Cobble Spring Farm, in Bloomingdale, NY. Sponsored by Historic Saranac Lake, Sirotkine’s solo piano performance will feature pieces by Bartók as well as Handel, Beethoven and Schumann.
Two years ago, Sirotkine visited the cabin in Saranac Lake where in 1945 composer Béla Bartók spent the last summer of his life, writing two pieces, his Third Piano Concerto and his Viola Concerto.
“My soul wept at the sight of his cabin, imagining him creating immortal music in the tiny room while hatred and paranoia raged all around the world. That cabin is a testament to the greatest of human spirits, as well as to his music,” Sirotkine said.
Born in Soviet Russia, Eugene Sirotkine started studying piano privately at age six and within a year, gained acceptance into the Glinka Choir College, the boy’s music school with the highest acceptance standards in Russia. He eventually immigrated to the United States, receiving advanced degrees in Organ Performance from Oberlin Conservatory, and in Conducting from the Mannes College of Music in New York.
Sirotkine has been Assistant Conductor and Chorus Master for the New York Metropolitan Opera and has conducted the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Orquestra Sinfonica UNCuto in Argentina, Orquestra Sinfônica Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, the Washington Opera, and the Cape Philharmonic in Cape Town, South Africa.
Bartók remains foundational to Sirotkine, who has gained inspiration by visiting places in Budapest where Bartók lived and worked.
“My first heartbreaking impressions of Bartók came from his folk songs, and then from his rhythms.I am still infatuated with both. His musical language teaches me how to study, analyze, compose and perform. No matter what music I work on, I always find time for his music too,” he said.
History of the Bartok cabin from Historic Saranac Lake:
"In 1945 the great Hungarian composer Béla Bartók spent the last summer of his life in Saranac Lake, writing two pieces, his Third Piano Concerto and Viola Concerto. Some 70 years later, Bartók's reputation has soared, and the cabin on Riverside Drive where he stayed has been saved from near collapse.
Ill with polycythemia, a form of leukemia, Bartók was sent by his doctors to Saranac Lake for the summer of 1943. That summer the Bartóks stayed with Mrs. Margaret Sageman, who owned a large cure cottage at 32 Park Avenue and lived in a smaller bungalow behind it. In less than two months there, Bartók composed his Concerto for Orchestra. He returned to the Sageman Cottage in 1944.
In the summer of 1945, the Bartóks moved into a four-room cabin on Riverside Drive. Mrs. M. A. Levy, with whom the couple had become friends in previous summers, had helped them find it, next door to her house. The cabin stood in the back yard of a house rented by Maks Haar, who worked for Lederle drug company, and his wife, the former Ida Weinstock, who had been raised in Saranac Lake. For fifteen dollars a month, Maks and Ida sublet the cabin to the Bartóks, who inscribed the Haars' guest book: "We are happy indeed to stay in this wonderful quiet place."
It is not known when the rustic cabin was built, though it seems likely to have been a summer curing facility for tuberculosis patients when the house was a cure cottage called Balsam Manor. No historic photos of the house show the cabin, though it may have been present when they were taken. Maryland Avenue behind the cabin was still undeveloped in 1945, and Ida Haar remembered going for walks with Bartók in the woods there.
Bartók described the cabin as "a small makeshift place" and "a hovel or hut." It was very simply furnished "with two cots, a small table, chairs that are gone long ago," and no piano, according to their son, Peter. The composer brought with him "a minimum of necessities, two kinds of manuscript paper (one for pencil, one for India ink) and writing instruments."
Bartók wrote about the cabin in a letter to Peter on July 7, calling it "very quiet, but very simple—the bath water must be heated in a stove—the ice-box must be fed real, natural ice." These comments were high praise from Bartók, who greatly valued quiet, simplicity and closeness to nature. Peter observed that "my father was obviously contented; his surroundings were as spartan as the interior of a Hungarian peasant cottage—reminder of a world with such fond associations for him." Here, wrote Peter, "he found the peaceand tranquillity suitable for composing."
In these plain rooms, Bartók wrote his last two works, the Viola Concerto and the Third Piano Concerto. The quiet natural environment of Saranac Lake truly nurtured Béla Bartók's creative genius, making it possible for him to compose important works of modern, classical music."
Please call Historic Saranac Lake at 518-891-4606 for reservations and directions to Cobble Spring Farm. Concerts begin at 7:30 pm. A donation of $20 at the door is suggested to support our work to preserve the Bartók cabin and the story of Bartók in Saranac Lake.