For six years, I received the most significant part of my formal musical education at the Liszt Academy.

Sir Georg Solti
Ditta Pásztory

Ditta Pásztory

31 October 1903, Rimaszombat – 1 November 1982, Budapest
Ditta Pásztory's formal musical education was a short one: having completed the conservatory as Mór Somogyi's pupil, she was admitted to the Music Academy. She asked to join Béla Bartók's class, who immediately admitted her into the second year. However, she studied at the Academy for one year only, since in 1923 she became Bartók's wife, and her musical studies continued at home. (She had completed two years of the piano syllabus and one year of theory.)
She did not loose her regular contact with music as a wife and mother either. A Stravinsky concert evoked the following reaction from the normally reserved Ditta Pásztory: "This music is not my world; mine is the music of Béla Bartók, where you have the pulsating rhythm, the tonal colour, but where there are feelings that are alive and which possess a soul." 1927 was dominated by illness, but even from the sanatorium, she followed her husband's concert tours. Once she recovered, the studies began anew, and soon a start was made on the work with two pianos, which accompanied their entire careers. Further, something that is rarely mentioned: she followed her husband's work as a scholar as well. Her handwriting turns up in his manuscripts. The small additions in the thirties are very revealing about the fact that she was able to be a partner for her many-sided husband.
After much travelling together, in January 1935, for the first time, she accompanied Bartók on a concert tour, and in 1938 went with him to Switzerland as a fellow artist: they gave the original premier of the Sonata for Two Violins and Percussion on 16 January in Basel. Bartók's evaluation of her first performance abroad was as follows: "My wife played the 2. piano and acquitted herself very well."
Ditta Pásztory's words in a 1941 interview have the character of an ars poetica: "I want to progress and work along the road pointed out and lit forever by Bartók, with the artistic ethics that Bartók taught always to everyone, through the direction of his work and his life."
In America she needed extra strength and tenacity, so that Bartók could always find her a true partner by his side; he intended the Third Piano Concerto as a farewell present to her. After Bartók's death, in 1946 Ditta Pásztory returned to Hungary. From the sixties onwards, she began giving concerts again, both at home and on concert tours abroad, and, of inestimable value, made recordings, preserving what she had learned from Bartók. In 1959-60 she recorded the whole of Microcosmos. There are also archive recordings of her playing with Bartók (Bartók, Brahms, Mozart).
She mostly played Bartók – including the Third Piano Concerto – and when at the original premiere of Bartók's Scherzo, written for piano and orchestra, she heard Erzsébet Tusa play the solo part, she regarded it as important to take up again the piece that she had played with no-one else since Bartók's death. We know from her statements that she always suffered from stage fight. Perhaps for this reason, perhaps because of the obvious weight of responsibility, she never performed alone, but always either with an orchestra or with Mária
Comensoli – with whom she mostly performed the pieces of Microcosm written for two pianos – or the Sonata, included in the new repertoire, with her chamber music partners. She used a score, as Bartók did, playing tersely and impetuously. Her play was characterised by simplicity, articulation and purity.
Her black-dressed figure often appeared at concerts when the programme included works by Bartók. She followed musical life closely and provided scholarships for talented students at the Music Academy. Her will, written in 1982, established the Béla Bartók-Ditta Pásztory Prize, which has been regularly awarded since 1984, and which to this day counts as the most prestigious professional recognition.
Ditta Pásztory was awarded the title, Meritorious Artist in 1963, and in 1987 received –posthumously – the Order of the Banner of the Hungarian People's Republic.
Her musical partner, Erzsébet Tusa, recalls: "When one was close to Ditta Pásztory, one could never forget Béla Bartók's presence behind her. Even if one did not think about him, he was constantly present – behind her reserve, the way she paid maximum attention, the way she never spared herself, the fact that behind the serious, responsible sounds one could always perceive the Bartókian white heat."
K. F.