May 20, 2015 Arts + Life » Performing Arts In 1987, after she built her house in Berlin, Vt., pianist Sylvia Parker began hearing rumors about the neighborhood's musical history. "People started asking me, did I know anything about a musician who once lived up the road?" recalls the University of Vermont music professor. "Finally I just heard too much of the gossip to put it away." Parker soon discovered that the "musician" was Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók. During the summer of 1941, Bartók spent a month at a friend's house "a short walk" down the road from Parker's. The discovery impelled the UVM prof to become a Bartók scholar herself — work that culminated in her just-released two-CD set of solo piano works, Bela Bartók: Peasant Jewels. For the project, Parker did an immense amount of research — rather like her idol. Beginning in 1906, Bartók spent years traveling around rural Hungary and environs, recording disappearing peasant folk music on an Edison wax-cylinder phonograph. A graduate of, and then piano teacher at, the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest, this urbanite nonetheless coaxed thousands of peasants into singing and playing folk instruments for the strange machine.

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