Rediscovering Victor Bator, founder of the New York Bartók Archives

Leafstedt, Carl (2012) Rediscovering Victor Bator, founder of the New York Bartók Archives. Studia Musicologica, 53 (1-3). pp. 349-372. ISSN 1788-6244

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Bartók’s American estate dates its origins to 1943, when he entrusted his music manuscript collection to the care of two fellow Hungarian emigrés, Gyula Báron and Victor Bator, both then living in the United States. After his death in 1945 the estate devolved into their care, in accord with the legal provisions of the will. For the next 22 years it was carefully managed by Bator, a lawyer and businessman who lived in New York City for the rest of his life. The onset of Cold War politics in the late 1940s presented numerous challenges to the estate, out of which emerged the tangled thicket of rumor, litigation, misunderstanding, confusion, and personal animosity that has been the American Bartók estate’s unfortunate legacy since the 1950s.As one of Hungary’s most significant cultural assets located outside the country’s borders, the American Bartók estate has since 1981 been under the control and careful supervision of Peter Bartók, now the composer’s only remaining heir. All but forgotten is the role Victor Bator played in managing the estate during the difficult years after World War II, when its beneficiaries became separated by the Iron Curtain, setting in motion legal and emotional difficulties that no one in the immediate family could have predicted. Equally overlooked is the role he played in enhancing the collection to become the world’s largest repository of Bartók materials.A considerable amount of Bator’s personal correspondence related to the early years of the Bartók estate has recently come to light in the U.S. Together with U.S. court documents and information gleaned from recent interviews with Bator’s son, Francis Bator, still living in Massachusetts, and the late Ivan Waldbauer, we can now reconstruct with reasonable accuracy the early history of Bartók’s estate. A strikingly favorable picture of Bator emerges. Bartók, it turns out, chose his executors wisely. A cultivated and broadly learned man, by the late 1920s Victor Bator had gained recognition as one of Hungary’s most prominent legal minds in the field of international business and banking law. His professional experience became useful to the Bartók estate as the Communist party gradually took hold of Hungary after World War II, seizing assets and nationalizing property previously belonging to individual citizens. His comfort in the arena of business law also thrust him into prominence as a public advocate for increased fees for American composers in the late 1940s - a matter of tremendous urgency for composers of serious music at the time. By reconstructing Bator’s professional career prior to 1943 his actions as executor and trustee become more understandable. We gain new insight into a figure of tremendous personal importance for Bartók and his family.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music / zene, szövegkönyvek, kották > M1 Music / zene
M Music and Books on Music / zene, szövegkönyvek, kották > M1 Music / zene > M10 Theory and philosophy of music / zeneelmélet, muzikológia
Depositing User: Endre Sarvay
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2017 12:20
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2017 12:20

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