I imagine that I might have heard the music of Bela Bartok some times, many times, never. And I have to admit that these are not six statues, but really only four, together with two busts.
He was born in Hungary, but it's now Romania. When he was three, he was given a drum. Bartok was innoculated against smallpox and got a terrible rash, which lasted until he was five years old. In those years, he listened to his mother playing the piano. Two years later, his father died. He moved with his mother to Ukraine. Two years after that, he began his first composition. It was a waltz.
He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, but by the age of 22 he considered himself an atheist. When his first son was born, also called Bela, he joined the Unitarian church.
Bartok died in New York. He had emigrated there a year after his mother died, but had been considering it since 1920. A year after emigrating, he was working at Columbia University.
In New York City at 309 West 57th Street, there is a bust of Bartok. Not a statue. It may even be a little less than a bust, since it is only really his head, rendered over a vague impression of his shoulders. He might be wearing a tie. Or a medal, on a ribbon. Below him, there is a dry riser. Above him, there is a lamp. He peers out between a spa and what might be an arthouse cinema.
He's at about eye level. Without his hat, without most of his hair on the top of his head - anyway, he does seem happy. Almost a smile. He died of leukemia, 24 days after the end of World War II. His last appearance in Germany had been in 1933.
The New York appearance is Bartok seeming his happiest, though he was in fact at his lowest point. He had left Europe after his mother's death to start a new life, but was depressed, had financial worries and was near to the end of his life.
He had volunteered in World War I, but was rejected for military service. He also had the flu in 1918, but survived. A decade later, he made his first gramaphone recording. He had used an Edison cylinder to record folk music in Europe.
In South Kensington, London, he wears his hat. His head is up, but his eyes are down. He seems quiet. Waiting. Or meditating on something. Thinking. His shoulders fall back and his neck seems too thin for his shirt-collar. He wears an overcoat, with his elbows back, his hands in high pockets. The statue is a copy of the Imre Varga work in the garden at Budapest.
Bartok was buried in New York at first, then his remains were translated back to Hungary via Southampton. His pupil Georg Solti was later buried next to him. The British Prime Minister of the day travelled down to pay her respects. He looks down Sydney Place, where he stayed, towards the river. His feet are together, as though he were expecting a bus. He stands on what looks like an upturned coracle.
In Paris, in his own square, he appears as he did in London, but somehow worn and older - and as though his feet were a little further apart, though of course they can't really be. He seems even more immobile. He stands on patterned stone, surrounded by ferns and almost underneath a tree.
Sometimes, his hands look like they are clasped behind his back, but they are not. Sometimes, his hat seems tipped back and his eyes put up to the surrounding buildings. In 1921, he met Ravel and Stravinsky, completing his book "The Hungarian Folksong".
In the Spanjeplein, Brussels, he appears in an overcoat, above something that looks like a computer-generated landscape, or a part of Heligoland. He walks in a cold wind, looking slightly down. He wears no hat. On his left breast he bears a sign, the character 'Om' in Sanskrit. He has his hands stuffed down into his pockets against the wind. He looks quite a small figure.
Or, on his left breast he bears a sign, a graf. The statue is by Imre Varga and was given on the 50th anniversary of Bartok's death. The statue is opposite another of Don Quixote - and the railway station.
In Budapest - rather, at number 29 on Csalán Road, which ran between the forest and Buda - he seems over-dressed, sometimes. Here he seems also to be looking up, under a much larger tree. This is the father-statue, I think. It is in front of his old house, up in the hills. Again, he's on a little mound. He's in his back garden, I expect. But, he still feels like he's a visitor. In a jacket and overcoat. Bartok never feels at home, even at home.
Two years after his death, the city council's Public Art and Culture Committee called for a statue of Bartok, but it was not to be. The invisible statue, this one. In Budapest, Imre Varga is not the prolific sculptor he once was. But, he has a small open collection of his work - and will often talk to visitors.
In Ankara, at the State Conservatory, there is no statue of Bartok, rather there is a bust. Bartok visited Turkey a decade and a half after meeting Ravel and Stravinsky in Paris. In fact, it seems a little more than a bust, since the whole of Bartok is visible, down to his waist. He has his arms folded. More than folded - wrapped around him, as though he has forgotten his overcoat and regrets it. He also has no hat.
Nearby is a bust of Ahmed Adnan Saygun, whom Bartok had travelled and worked with studying the folk music of Turkey.
By now, I've worked out that there aren't six statues of Bela Bartok - there are only four copies. I need to go back to South Kensington and take another look.