Romanian Folk Dances

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Romanian Folk Dances (Hungarian: Román népi táncok), Sz. 56, BB 68 is a suite of six short piano pieces composed by Béla Bartók in 1915. He later orchestrated it for small ensemble in 1917 as Sz. 68, BB 76.

It is based on seven Romanian tunes from Transylvania, originally played on fiddle or shepherd's flute. The original name for the piece was titled Romanian Folk Dances from Hungary (Magyarországi román népi táncok) but was later changed by Bartók when Romania occupied and finally annexed Transylvania between 1918–1920.[1] It is nowadays available in the 1971 edition which is written with key signatures although Bartók rarely ever wrote key signatures.[2]


This set of dances consists of six movements and, according to the composer, it should take four minutes and three seconds to perform, but most professional pianists take up to five minutes. The list of the movements is as follows. The original Hungarian title will be in the first place, the most commonly known title in Romanian will be in the second place and the translation into English will be in parentheses:

  1. Bot tánc / Jocul cu bâtă (Stick Dance)
  2. Brâul (Sash Dance)
  3. Topogó / Pe loc (In One Spot)
  4. Bucsumí tánc / Buciumeana (Dance from Bucsum)
  5. Román polka / Poarga Românească (Romanian Polka)
  6. Aprózó / Mărunțel (Fast Dance)[3][4]

The melody of the first movement, according to Bartók, came from the Mezőszabad (present-day Voiniceni) village that was part of Mezőcsávás (present-day Ceuașu de Câmpie) commune which was located in the Maros-Torda administrative county within Transylvania, and he first heard it when two gypsy violinists were playing it.[5] The second movement is a typical dance from Romania called Brâul, for which traditionally a sash or a waistband was used. This melody came from Egres (present-day Igriș), in the Banat region.[1] The third dance comes also from Egres (Igriș), but its theme is much darker and its melody recreates Middle Eastern instruments, such as the flute.[6] The fourth dance came from Bucsony, Alsó-Fehér County (today Bucium, Alba county in Romania).[7] The fifth dance is an old Romanian dance similar to the Polka and comes from Belényes (present-day Beiuş, in Bihor county), near the border between Hungary and Romania.[8] The sixth and last dance is formed by two different melodies: the first one comes from Belényes (present-day Beiuș) and the second one comes from the then named Nyagra (present-day Neagra) village within the Palotailva (present-day Lunca Bradului) commune.[9] Both on the orchestral version and on the original piano version, the final two dances are performed attacca—without a break between movements.[10]


All of the movements are composed according to the rules of the musical modes, which state that all melodies are to be written according to a specific order of tones and semitones.

Movement Tempo Time to perform[11] Key Form Mode
Bot tánc / Jocul cu bâtă Allegro moderato, quarter note = 80 57 seconds A minor Binary Dorian and Aeolian on key centre A
Brâul Allegro, quarter note = 144 25 seconds D minor Binary Dorian centered on D
Topogó / Pe loc Andante, quarter note = 112 45 seconds B minor Binary Aeolian and Arabic influence (augmented seconds) on key centre B or Gypsy scale without leading-tone
Bucsumí tánc / Buciumeana Moderato, quarter note = 100 35 seconds A major Binary with 2 tunes Mixolydian and Arabic influence on key centre A
Román polka / Poarga Românească Allegro, quarter note = 152 31 seconds D major Binary with 2 tunes Lydian on key centre D
Aprózó / Mărunțel Allegro, quarter note = 152 (and after, Più Allegro, quarter note = 160)[3] 13 and 36 seconds D Major, modulates to A major 3 tunes and coda Key Centre A; first part begins with Lydian, but is in Mixolydian; second part is in Dorian

Other arrangements[edit]

Aside from the version Bartók wrote for a small orchestral ensemble, some of Bartók's friends wrote adaptations or transcriptions of this piece for several different ensembles. The following list shows some of the most published of them:

  • Arthur Willner's version for string orchestra. It is a mere transcription with no modification on the original score other than appropriately orchestrating the piece for a string orchestra with violin I, violin II, viola, cello and double bass.
  • Zoltán Székely's version for violin and piano. This is not just a transcription, but also an arrangement and adaptation of the piece for these two instruments, especially from the point of view of the violinist. Therefore, some of the slight adjustments Székely made on the original score were to transpose some of the songs: the second movement was transposed from D minor to F minor, the third from B minor to D minor and the fourth from A major to C major. He also repeated some sections, added bars and used several techniques from the violin such as artificial harmonics, double stops, and Sautillé.[7]
  • Further Gerhard Präsent's version for string quartet (2005-06, published in 2016).

Notable recordings[edit]

Notable recordings of this composition include:

Piano Solo Record Company Year of Recording Format
András Schiff Denon Records / Brilliant Classics 1980 CD[12]
Jenő Jandó Naxos Records 2005 CD[13]

Notable recordings of the arrangement by Zoltán Székely include:

Violin Piano Record Company Year of Recording Format
Joseph Szigeti Béla Bartók EMI Classics 1930 CD[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cummings, Robert. "Brâul (Sash Dance), for piano (Romanian Folk Dances No. 2), Sz. 56/2, BB 68 2: Composition description". Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  2. ^ Kroo, Gyorgy. Guide to Bartok. Branden Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-8283-1559-3.
  3. ^ a b This movement is only present in the orchestrated version, as it is part of the sixth dance. Although most recordings set this track list for the orchestrated version, this last movement is part of the previous movement
  4. ^ Whitehouse, Richard (2005). 8.554718 – BARTOK, B.: Piano Music, Vol. 2 (Jando) – Dance Suite / Romanian Folk Dances. Hong Kong: HNH International Ltd. p. 4. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  5. ^ Cummings, Robert. "Jocul cu bâta (Stick Dance), for piano (Romanian Folk Dances No. 1), Sz. 56/1, BB 68 1: Composition description". Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  6. ^ Cummings, Robert. "Pe Loc (In One Spot), for piano (Romanian Folk Dances No. 3), Sz. 56/3, BB 68/3: Composition description". Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  7. ^ a b Cummings, Robert. "Buciumeana (Dance of Buchum), for piano (Romanian Folk Dances No. 4), Sz. 56/4, BB 68/4: Composition Description". Rovi Corporation Ltd. Retrieved August 4, 2011.
  8. ^ Cummings, Robert. "Poarga Româneasca (Romanian Polka), for piano (Romanian Folk Dances No. 5), Sz. 56/5, BB 68/5: Composition description". Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  9. ^ Cummings, Robert. "Maruntel (Fast Dance from Belebyes), for piano (Romanian Folk Dances No. 6), Sz. 56/6, BB 68/6: Composition description". Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  10. ^ Cummings, Robert. "Maruntel (Fast Dance from Belebyes), for orchestra (Romanian Folk Dances No. 6), Sz. 68/6, BB 76/6: Composition description". Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  11. ^ This is the original timing Bartók wrote down after each movement
  12. ^ "Information about the CD 9714 from Denon Records". Santa Clara: Rovi Corporation. 1980. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  13. ^ "Track list from the CD 8.554718 from the Naxos catalogue". Hong Kong: Naxos Digital Services Ltd. 2005. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  14. ^ "Information about the CD 180761 from EMI Classics". Santa Clara: Rovi Corporation. 1930. Retrieved August 13, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hinson, Maurice. Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, for the piano (Alfred Masterwork Edition). Alfred Publishing. ISBN 978-0-88284-864-8.
  • Kroo, Gyorgy. Guide to Bartok. Branden Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-8283-1559-3.
  • Suchoff, Benjamin (1993). Béla Bartók essays. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-6108-2.
  • Antokoletz, Elliott; Fischer, Victoria; Suchoff, Benjamin (2000). Bartók perspectives: man, composer, and ethnomusicologist. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-512562-7.
  • Yeomans, David (1988). Bartók for piano. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-21383-9.

External links[edit]