Bartók, Romanian Folk Dances

February 2, 2018

Béla Bartók (1881-1945)

Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56 BB 68, 1915

Béla Bartók The great 20th century Hungarian composer Béla Bartók needs no introduction to most music lovers. It is a wonderful thematic coincidence that he was born the same year as Enescu. Their deeper connection is a shared Eastern European heritage and, specifically for our Fantezie program, Bartók’s famous setting of six Romanian Folk Dances. Bartók’s profound musical legacy stems from two different but interrelated aspects of his identity as both an early 20th Century avant-garde composer of art music, and a skillfully devoted ethnomusicologist cataloging a diversity of Eastern European folk musics which he sensed would quickly disappear in the modern world. On one hand, he gave us the extraordinary orchestral and chamber music works, on the other, innumerable recordings and pristine arrangements of piquant if not exotic folk music.

Among his most popular settings are the Romanian Folk Dances of 1915, originally for solo piano then transcribed by Bartók himself for orchestra. The compatriot Hungarian violinist and composer Zoltan Székely made the famous arrangement for violin and piano while tonight’s performance features yet another natural permutation for violin and string quartet. These are perfectly bewitching musical postcards from Romania. For English speakers at least, it is clarifying to temporarily strip away both the Romanian titles and the Italian tempo directives to reveal the simple English translations of these vivid, modal folk tunes: Stick Dance, Sash Dance, In One Spot, Horn Dance, Romanian Polka, Fast Dance

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.