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Composer’s Remains Headed for Native Hungary

July 1, 1988

SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) _ Forty-three years after he died in self-imposed exile in New York, the remains of composer Bela Bartok are on the way to reburial in his native Hungary.

The remains left England today on the second stage of their journey. The liner Queen Elizabeth 2, which brought the remains here from the United States on Thursday, set sail at 11:33 a.m. for Cherbourg, France, and was expected to arrive there seven hours later.

In Cherbourg, the brown-painted, sealed wooden box will be put on a train to begin a slow, five-day journey through France, West Germany and Austria.

Memorial concerts were scheduled today in Cherbourg and Sunday in Munich, and the body was to lie in state Monday in Vienna before the ceremonial state burial in Budapest next Thursday.

″Bela Bartok was one of the greatest musical figures this century ... His genius has enhanced the reputation of Hungarian culture throughout the world,″ British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said at a memorial concert Thursday night at Southampton University.

Bartok gave 50 piano performances in Britain between 1904 and 1938. He died in 1945 at age 64 in the United States, having quit his homeland in disgust at the government’s close ties with Nazi Germany.

″We have no doubt that he belongs to Hungary,″ the composer’s son, Peter, 64, of Homosassa, Fla., told the concert audience. Attending were David Mellor, Foreign Office minister of state representing the British govrnment, and Hungarian Ambassador Matyas Domokos.

Peter Bartok and his brother Bela Bartok Jr., 78, who lives in Budapest, the Hungarian capital, are accompanying their father’s remains from New York to Hungary.

″It was difficult for a long time for us to accept that his grave should be disturbed, but finally we knew if we did not, the opportunity to go home with our father won’t always exist, and the thought of not going with him we could not accept,″ Peter said.

Two works of Bartok were performed at the concert.

Violinist Gyorgy Pauk and pianist Peter Frankl, both Budapest-born and living in Britain, presented the Sonata No.2 for violin and piano, and Britain’s Lindsay String Quartet played the String Quartet No. 6.

Quartet violinist Ronald Birks, asked later if Bartok’s music is difficult to play, replied: ″Very - you have to know it.″

On the platform was a painting of Bartok and violinist Yehudi Menuhin, for whom the composer wrote his Sonata for Solo Violin in 1943.

Hungarian artist Zsuzsi Roboz, a British resident, presented her picture to the Bartok brothers for their father’s old home in Budapest, now a memorial museum.

Peter Bartok said his father’s bones were in the simple, zinc-lined box that rested on the Queen Elizabeth 2 overnight and that the box would be buried as it was.

″We thought of having an elaborate casket but the thought of all the disturbance was repugnant to my brother and I,″ he said.

He said ″someone cheated″ the family and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, which arranged the funeral in 1945.

″We ordered a steel coffin because we were all sure that our father would one day go home. But when we exhumed him in Ferncliff cemetery (June 22) we found the coffin was wood which had disintegrated,″ the younger brother said.

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