Hyperion Records

Rumanian Folk Dances, Sz56

'Organ Fireworks, Vol. 9' (CDA67228)
Organ Fireworks, Vol. 9
No 1: Stick dance
Track 2 on CDA67228 [1'20] Archive Service
No 2: Sash dance
Track 3 on CDA67228 [0'33] Archive Service
No 3: In one spot
Track 4 on CDA67228 [0'59] Archive Service
No 4: Horn dance
Track 5 on CDA67228 [1'00] Archive Service
No 5: Romanian polka
Track 6 on CDA67228 [0'34] Archive Service
No 6: Fast dance
Track 7 on CDA67228 [1'06] Archive Service

Rumanian Folk Dances, Sz56
By the age of five, Béla Bartók already displayed an aptitude for the piano and had begun to compose small pieces for it. Although the family had been left in straightened circumstances by the early death of his father, his mother devoted all her energies to ensuring that his talents were fully developed. In the course of his studies at the Gymnasium in Nagivárad he played the organ, gaining insight into the music of Bach and Brahms, but he never produced any solo music for the instrument. (It does, however, make a thrilling impact at the opening of the fifth door in his opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle.) He began collecting folk music at the age of twenty-three, spurred on by meeting his contemporary Zoltán Kodály, as well as by his burgeoning sense of Hungarian nationalism.

Bartók wrote his set of Romanian Folk Dances for the piano in 1915 and orchestrated them two years later. Ever the practical musician he often played them in a version for violin and piano and recorded some of them with Josef Szigeti; it is in the spirit of this willingness to adapt the music for different performing circumstances that has encouraged Christopher Herrick to make the present version. (In the process he has revived happy memories of playing a large amount of Bartók on the piano in his youth.) The composer makes use of seven tunes originally intended for fiddle or flute, from four different areas of Transylvania. Once part of southern Hungary, Transylvania was ceded to Romania in 1920. The melodies are by turns energetic and melancholic and the composer finds a harmonic context for each which, although often far away from the simple harmonies of the originals, stays true to their spirit. The final piece consists of two exuberant fast dances, the second being marked by an increase in speed.

from notes by Stephen Westrop © 2001

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