Hungarian Dances (Brahms)

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The Hungarian Dances (German: Ungarische Tänze) by Johannes Brahms (WoO 1), are a set of 21 lively dance tunes based mostly on Hungarian themes, completed in 1869.[1]

They vary from about a minute to five minutes in length. They are among Brahms's most popular works, and were certainly the most profitable for him. Each dance has been arranged for a wide variety of instruments and ensembles. Brahms originally wrote the version for piano four hands and later arranged the first 10 dances for solo piano.[2]

Only numbers 11, 14 and 16 are entirely original compositions. The better-known Hungarian Dances include No. 1 and 5, the latter which was based on the csárdás by Béla Kéler titled "Bártfai emlék" which Brahms mistakenly thought was a traditional folksong.[3]

The Hungarian Dances bear many resemblances to, and may have influenced, the Slavonic Dances of Antonín Dvořák.[citation needed]

List of Hungarian Dances[edit]

  • Book 1. (Published in 1869)
  1. in G minor: Allegro molto
  2. in D minor: Allegro non assai – Vivace
  3. in F major: Allegretto
  4. in F minor (F minor for orchestra): Poco sostenuto – Vivace
  5. in F minor (G minor for orchestra): Allegro – Vivace
  • Book 2. (Published in 1869)
  1. in D major (D major for orchestra): Vivace
  2. in A major (F major for orchestra): Allegretto – Vivo
  3. in A minor: Presto
  4. in E minor: Allegro ma non troppo
  5. in E major (F major for orchestra): Presto
  • Book 3. (Published in 1880)
  1. in D minor: Poco andante
  2. in D minor: Presto
  3. in D major: Andantino grazioso – Vivace
  4. in D minor: Un poco andante
  5. in B major: Allegretto grazioso
  6. in F minor: Con moto – F major: Presto
  • Book 4. (Published in 1880)
  1. in F minor: Andantino – Vivace
  2. in D major: Molto vivace
  3. in B minor: Allegretto
  4. in E minor: Poco allegretto – Vivace
  5. in E minor: Vivace – E major: Più presto


Brahms wrote orchestral arrangements for Nos. 1, 3 and 10.[4] Other composers have orchestrated the other dances. These composers include Antonín Dvořák, Andreas Hallén (Nos. 2, 4 and 7), Paul Juon (No. 4), Martin Schmeling (1864–1943) (Nos. 5 to 7), Hans Gál (Nos. 8 and 9), Albert Parlow (de) (Nos. 5, 6 and 11 to 16) and Robert Schollum (de) (Nos. 4, 8 and 9). Dvořák orchestrated the last numbers. More recently, Iván Fischer has orchestrated the complete set.

Brahms's Hungarian Dances were influential in the development of ragtime.[5] See, for example, the role of German-American piano teacher Julius Weiss in ragtime composer Scott Joplin's early life and career.


Leopold Stokowski's very first recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra were devoted to Hungarian Dances Nos. 5 and 6. They were recorded by the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey in 1917.

The Boston Pops Orchestra with conductor Arthur Fiedler recorded Hungarian Dances Nos. 5 and 6 in Symphony Hall, Boston. Hungarian Dance No. 5 was recorded on June 25, 1950. It was released by RCA Victor as catalog number 10-3254B (in USA) and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number B 10631. Hungarian Dance No. 6 was recorded on June 16, 1950. It was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 10-3244B (in USA) and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number B 10631. These were 78-rpm discs. The pieces were arranged by Albert Parlow.

Julius Katchen and Jean-Pierre Marty recorded the complete set in the 1960s, as part of Katchen's recording of the complete piano works of Brahms. Aloys and Alfons Kontarsky recorded them in 1976 for Deutsche Grammophon, released originally on LP catalog number 2530 710. The French sister duo-pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque recorded the complete set of dances for Philips in 1981, as catalog number 4164592.

The complete orchestral versions were recorded digitally by Claudio Abbado and the Vienna Philharmonic for Deutsche Grammophon in 1982, released on LP as 410 615-1 and on CD as 410 615-2.

The complete orchestral versions were again recorded digitally by István Bogár (hu) and the Budapest Symphony Orchestra for Naxos in 1988, released on CD as 8.550110. This recording was awarded a Rosette by The Penguin Guide. Their review called this recording "sheer delight from beginning to end... an outright winner among the available versions."[6]

Another set of complete orchestral versions was recorded in 1998 by Iván Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra on the Philips Records label, released as CD 289 462 589-2.


  1. ^ Bozarth, George. "Brahms, Johannes". Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Lopraits, Elizabeth (2008). Hungarian gypsy style in the Lisztian spirit: Georges Cziffra's two transcriptions of Brahms' Fifth Hungarian Dance. ProQuest. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-549-55607-7. 
  3. ^ p. 341 Walker (1998) Alan. Cornell. Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 1811–1847. Cornell University Press
  4. ^ Wilson, Conrad (2005). Notes on Brahms: 20 crucial works. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-8028-2991-7. 
  5. ^ "Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5 on Bill Edwards' site.". Archived from the original on 2009-09-25. 
  6. ^ 2006 Penguin Guide, p. 254

External links[edit]