I am learning to play the piano using Bartok's Mikrokosmos. Piece 44 is written for 2 pianos, but the first piano is playing in a different key than the second piano.

Bartok mikrokosmos 44

  • What are the keys the pianos are playing in?
  • How does this work (how does it sound good)?
  • Is there other music that uses multiple keys simultaneously ?
  • I think not everyone would say that it does sound good. Also, it might help to think of it as not being in more than one key, but as not being in any key at all. There are many, many 20th century works that were composed without being in a particular key. Jan 30 '19 at 22:42
  • If it's not in a key at all, why would the composer than choose these key signatures (except for the fact that they maybe are the most common in the piece)?
    – Bram
    Jan 30 '19 at 22:45
  • Your guess is one possible explanation - that Bartok wrote in key signatures that had the most used accidentals. Or it could be that Bartok did not actually write key signatures when he wrote it and an editor/publisher added them to try to make it "more readable" or something. Jan 30 '19 at 22:49
  • Related question: Why does key signature give accidentals, which are never used.
    – guidot
    Feb 2 '19 at 17:29

there are actually no different keys:

  • Piano I is for the beginner

    Piano II is the teacher's part

Both parts are in E major (until measure 12, where after he goes poly tonic)

But as in Piano I there is no D# and A# to play - Bartok doesn't notate them! ...

probably to make the beginner to focus on the 2 black keys for the matching fingers. This was certainly a pedagogical intention.


While Schoenberg was escaping from Common Practice harmony into serialism, Bartok was experimenting with modes and polytonality. (In this piece, he's using both!) He chose to use non-standard key signatures - not always terribly helpful in the pieces where he constantly mixed his modes!

If you're interested in 'Bartok Theory' dip into this: https://open.bu.edu/bitstream/handle/2144/6387/Horan_Mother_Annunciata_%201957_web.pdf?sequence=3

See also Strange key signature?

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