Romanian Folk Dances

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Romanian Folk Dances (Romanian: Dansuri populare românești, pronounced [ˈdansurʲ popuˈlare romɨˈneʃtʲ]), (Hungarian: Román népi táncok, pronounced [ˈromaːn ˈneːpi ˈtaːnt͡sok]), 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. Its title was originally Romanian Folk Dances from Hungary (Hungarian: Magyarországi román népi táncok, pronounced [ˈmɒɟɒrorsaːɡi ˈromaːn ˈneːpi ˈtaːnt͡sok]) but was later changed by Bartók when Transylvania became part of Romania in 1920.[1] It is nowadays available in the 1971 edition which is written with key signatures although Bartók rarely used 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 (with the original Hungarian title listed first, the most commonly known Romanian title second, and the English translation in parentheses):

  1. Bot tánc / Jocul cu bâtă (Stick Dance)
    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.[3]
  2. Brâul (Sash Dance)
    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]
  3. Topogó / Pe loc (In One Spot)
    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.[4]
  4. Bucsumí tánc / Buciumeana (Dance from Bucsum)
    The fourth dance came from Bucsony, Alsó-Fehér County (today Bucium, Alba county in Romania).[5]
  5. Román polka / Poarga Românească (Romanian Polka)
    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.[6]
  6. Aprózó / Mărunțel (Fast Dance)[7][8]
    The sixth and last dance is formed by two different melodies: the first from Belényes (present-day Beiuș) and the second from the village of Nyagra (present-day Neagra) within the Palotailva (present-day Lunca Bradului) commune.[9] In both the orchestral version and the original piano version, the final two dances are performed attacca—without a break between movements.[10]


Movement Tempo Time to perform[11] Key Form Mode
Bot tánc / Jocul cu bâtă Allegro moderato

quarter note = 104

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 = 90

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 Phrygian dominant scale 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, after Più Allegro

quarter note = 160[7]

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


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 are the best-known:

  • Arthur Willner's version for string orchestra. It is a mere transcription with no modification of the original music.
  • 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. Some of the modifications Székely made included transposing some of the movements (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), repeating some sections, adding bars, and using several techniques for the violin such as artificial harmonics, double stops, and Sautillé.[5]

Notable recordings[edit]

Notable recordings of this composition include the following:

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 the following:

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 (1974). Guide to Bartok. Branden Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-8283-1559-3.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ 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.
  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 (December 1991). Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, for the piano (Alfred Masterwork ed.). Alfred Publishing. ISBN 978-0-88284-864-8.
  • Kroo, Gyorgy (1974). 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]