Romanian Folk Dances

January 29, 2007 at 05:34 AM · I've already learned the "Sword Dance", or 1st movement, and LOVE it, but is there any tips you can give me for the other movements????

Replies (35)

January 29, 2007 at 02:53 PM · The second one is a "Sash Dance" so it must be playful and even flirtatious.

The third one is frequently played much too slow, but I have heard the original folk tune played on the Hungarian shepherd's flute, and it has a real liveliness and dance quality to it which is frequently missing. As for getting the harmonics to speak, play near the bridge with a slow bow (no sliding around).

The fourth one, just go for the best tone and most vibrato colors possible.

The fifth one, be sure to observe the changes in meter! I've often heard it played as if it's all in 2/4, but it goes between 3/4 and 2/4--typical Hungarian rhythm, it's really neat when you bring it out.

The last one, just have fun. This is the one where the actual writing for the violin is most similar to the playing of folk fiddlers in Transylvania. This just hit me recently, as I was listening to a scratchy old field recording from somewhere near the Szekélyföld--"Hey, that sounds like the last Romanian Folk Dance!"


January 30, 2007 at 09:20 AM · I don't speak Romanian, but I thought the title of the second dance means "baton". Should be a dance in which somebody taps with a stick on the ground to give the tempo.

January 30, 2007 at 01:57 PM · Brâul - title of the second dance - means belt or ribbon

January 30, 2007 at 02:08 PM · I just love this piece.

Second mvt: Measure 15-16, do the F# quarter and eighth notes in first position with the second finger, slide with the third finger (C# to F# half note) up the G string. That is a most nifty shift.

Fifth mvt: Do measure 13 in fourth position.

Sixth mvt: Take measure 33-end faster!

January 30, 2007 at 02:41 PM · Buciumeana - fourth mvt. - is a woodwind instrument. That's why I'd use vibrato sparingly

January 30, 2007 at 03:39 PM · I thought "Buciumeana" just meant a song or dance from Bucium region. Like Bartok's violin duo "Ardeleana" is "Transylvanian Dance" ("Erdély" = Transylvania).

As for the "stick" or "baton", that's the first one. (Not "sword".) "Jocul cu bâta" = literally, "dance with sticks."

edit: pardon my spelling, even my extended keyboard can't handle all the Romanian letters. :)

January 30, 2007 at 08:00 PM · From: Skowronski: Classical Recordings

Dear Maura: Here's what Mr. Skowronski has used during his performances when speaking from the stage re - translation of the dance movements:

1- JOC CU BATA: Dance with Sticks--or a game played with a stick. From Mezoszabad, district of Maros-Torda, in Transylvania. Merry and energetic with a gaily syncopated melody.

2- BRAUL: Waistband Dance. The word actually means--a cloth belt worn by men or women. From Egres, district of Torontal, now a part of Yugoslavia. Gay and quick in duple measure.

3- PE LOC: Stamping Dance. Translation is literally "on the spot." A dance in which participants do not move from a certain location. From Egres. Rather slow with a steady step and a melody notable for small intervals. (Mr. Skowronski plays this movement 'con sordino' so as to create a suggested -perhaps- icy affect.

4- BUCIUMEANA: Hornpipe Dance. Dance from Butschum, the district of Torda-Aranyos in Transylvania. Graceful, most romantic of the selected dances.

5- POARCA ROMANEASCA: Romanian Polka serving also as a Romanian Children's Dance. POARCA is a game played by the country children. From Belenyes district of Bibar on the border between Hungary and Transylvania. Quick and lively with a broken-chord melody marked into groups of three beats, three beats, two-beats.

6- MARUNTEL: Quick Dance. A fast dance using very small steps and movements. (Akin to Ireland's 'Break Dancing') From Belenyes.

So far, no complaints from our Hungarian friends.

Best regards,

Skowronski: Classical Recordings

January 31, 2007 at 12:16 AM · Thanks, but that's basically the same text we all have in our editions. We're getting into the real minutiae of where it came from, what it's played on, what specific ethnomusicological background. :) Blame me, I'm the wanna-be Zoltan Kodaly here. :)

January 31, 2007 at 01:38 AM · Where can one here these? I saw someone doing some Bartok recently, and I want to hear these too!. ;).

January 31, 2007 at 02:45 AM · Mr. Al, there is a CD on the Helios label, with Krysia Osostowicz and Susan Tomes playing these, along with the Sonata for Solo Violin, Rhapsody 1 and 2, and "Contrasts". It is a very good recording.

According to "Szekely and Bartok: The Story of a Friendship", by Claude Kenneson, Szekely transcribed these pieces in 1925 from the original piano versions (1915). Bartok and Szekely premiered them in 1925.

According to "The Bartok Companion", Malcolm Gillies, ed. (a book all good Hungarians should have), there was an extra dance cut from the original 1915 piano version. Ooo, The Lost Folk Dance! This book also disputes Szekely's premiere date, putting it at 1926.

Also from "The Bartok Companion", in Chapter 11, referring to the 1915 piano version, the author Janos Karpati states:

"Its material had been collected by the composer during his tours to the counties of Maros-Torda (Mures), Bihar (Bihor), Torda-Aranyos (Turda) and Torontal in 1910 and 1912. Romanian folk music offered Bartok a number of elements that were attractive, not found in Hungarian folk music and, moreover, stimulating to his further renewal of twentieth-century art music. Above all, the Romanian instrumental folk music was much richer than that of Hungary, and involved such instruments as one or two violins, violin and guitar, peasant flute or bagpipes...Bartok hardly ever preserved the tempos of the original tunes, but made fast dances even faster and the slow ones even slower, therby giving an individual character to each one."

My spell checker has officially collapsed.

January 31, 2007 at 03:18 AM · Albert,

There is a video of some woman playing these on youtube.


January 31, 2007 at 03:29 AM · Cool--thanks... That was Calvin Sieb playing Bartok I mentioned--I had the vid downloaded....

January 31, 2007 at 03:55 AM · greetings,

there are recording sby Zoltan Szekely and maybe Szigeti on some of the Biddulph collections of old masters.



January 31, 2007 at 03:56 AM · Szigeti's recording (with Bartók at the piano!) is wonderful, as is Barnabás Kelemen's recording w/ Péter Nagy. I haven't heard Székely yet...

Anna, I got that book from the library once, will buy it as soon as I find a nice cheap copy. :) Good enough (for a külföldi magyar at least)?

January 31, 2007 at 04:52 AM · There is a Bartok/Szigeti recording of the Romanian Folk Dances? There is a recording of Bartok playing the piano version ("Bartok at the Piano", Hungaraton) and a Bartok/Szigeti Hungarian Folk Songs on "Recorded History of the Violin Vol. 2".

Mara, go to your favorite online book retail establishment, and buy a used one. They are fairly inexpensive.

January 31, 2007 at 06:17 AM · The vid cut off in the middle of the polka--I think it is.... I really dug the hornpipe dance.... 'That' is what I'm looking for interpretively I think.

The harmonic piece (The Stamping dance I think) was interesting.

When I listen to these, I wear 2 pairs of shoes. Having looked for decades at the flow of dynamics of Appalachian music from pre-shape note days, I have some abstract awareness of Bartok on his collection journies versus what was translated upward. Still, the renditions are awesome, and the lady as well. When she grinned at the crowd, I knew I was in for a treat.

I guess I'm gonna have to take a couple pints of Uncle Joe's finest and go to Romania to get to the heart of this matter! ;>)...

p.s. Thanks Anne.

January 31, 2007 at 05:16 AM · Albert,

Sorry about that. I posted the wrong one. Here's the full one:

It is with Janine Jensen (the girl of Bram's dreams :))

Hopefully this works better.

January 31, 2007 at 05:35 AM · Anna, I have the Szigeti/Bartók recording on vinyl, part of a 6-LP set called "The Art of Joseph Szigeti" that I got on eBay. :) The recording appears to exist now only on that set, which has not yet been released on CD. :(

Bartók was a hell of a pianist, by the way. One of my favorites of all time, and I'm picky about my pianists!

January 31, 2007 at 05:37 AM · Thanks a bunch George--yes she is--4- sure!. I can't wait to see this.

January 31, 2007 at 05:47 AM · Greetings,

Maura, I have thta set on CD. Maybe it has only been released in Japan,



January 31, 2007 at 06:56 AM · Cool George--that was the greatest--thank you!.

A Short and True Story:

'bout a year and a half, I ran across Janine's web site--maybe even a little longer, and was wow'd by how pretty she was. It was a warm day in June, and the rain had just stopped falling giving away to a sunny intoxicating June, with the summer's essence at it's very finest. (gotta have some filler).

Couple years before that, I started casually collecting information on Bartok--for folk reasons. 'bout a year after that, I started violin. So George brings these three together. Janine, violin and Bartok--dang man--I feel like I owe you a beer at least.

January 31, 2007 at 10:55 AM · Dear people,

take a look at this:

This is an idea from Wallachian gypsies; but how it should be is ofcourse mainly Transylvanian. Men can play all the six dances (maybe exept the third part) in the band-form of Transylvania: violin, three-stringed viola and doublebass.

The style of the playing (ornaments, melodic subtilities, rythms) is bound on given villages; the melodies are known in much bigger areas. For example, you can find the thema of the second rapsody in the whole Transylvanian plain. It must be said that the folkplayers don't know Bartok. Bartok knows them.

An idea how to play the third movement: to imitate the shepherd's flute, don't play flageolets, play normal, but tuch only the strings and not the vingerboard! And use a bit ponticello. This is a common way to imitate a flute among folk fiddlers in Romania.



January 31, 2007 at 02:41 PM · I found the Bartok/Szigeti recording of the Romanian Folk Dances on Hungaroton's "Bartok at the Piano"...very pricey. FYI they recorded it in London on 1/7/30.

Mara, I would assume that Bartok gave up the glories of the concert hall to chase the REAL money of composing!

January 31, 2007 at 03:34 PM · Thanks Finn!! I love Transylvanian music. :) You sound like you know a lot about the music of those regions, have you studied it much? (Sounds like there were a few extra tunes in that recording--maybe one of those is the Lost Folk Dance mentioned above.)

btw, doesn't "Taraf de Haidouks" mean "band of brigands" or something? Awesome name for a cigányzenekar. :)

Edit: wow, is this thread the official gathering of v.commie ethnomusicologists or what....Albert, have you found any parallels between American and Transylvanian folk fiddling yet? :)

January 31, 2007 at 04:10 PM · Although it is for piano, Lili Kraus' old version is definit ive as far as I'm concerned, for tempo, phrasing, and dynamics. Stunning.

January 31, 2007 at 08:05 PM · Hello Maura, I don't know exactly what 'haidouks' means, it must be something like 'warriors'.

I have been many times in Transylvania, visiting the gypsies, to learn their music. I learned their repetoire on violin, and I learned to play the three-stringed viola. What I have experiented there changed me forever!

January 31, 2007 at 08:36 PM · I think "hejduk" is something like "brigand" or maybe something like a betyár. Not sure if it's originally Romanian or Croatian or what...

(...ha Erdélybe mentek, beszélsz magyarul??)

January 31, 2007 at 08:49 PM · Hajduks were outlaws with a preference of Turkish victims. The city of Split in Croatia has a soccerclub 'Hajduk Split'.

February 1, 2007 at 09:56 AM · Maura! Take a look on

(scak kicsi roman!)

February 1, 2007 at 02:09 PM · Köszönöm! (Én is csak egy kicsit beszelék...)

February 1, 2007 at 07:09 PM · If we are getting into minuitia, I kept going wrong around bar 36 of the last dance. There is a c natural, actually marked as such in my copy, but immediately before that the piano has c sharp, and that really threw me as I kept tuning my c to what I had just heard. The C against C sharp sounds great though. What else could we expect from the master of folk dance?

February 1, 2007 at 08:03 PM · Are the printed versions online anywhere?

February 3, 2007 at 08:35 AM · I just listened to this several times in a row....How would those of you in the know, given a perfect image with which to compare--one of a true high-level folk musician, express the translation from folk to Bartok.

What might some of the qualities modified in translation for example? More vibrato? That kind of thing. For example one quality different in bluegrass fiddling, actually is that--less vibrato.

And in high-quality folk musician, I mean one who is on the balcony just jamming rather than having excelled in a folk-culture....

January 28, 2010 at 11:36 PM ·

 In the fifth movement, what should I do with those grace note markings?  Should they sound or not?

January 30, 2010 at 04:27 AM ·

Yes, the grace notes should be sounded ( though they end up being played as even rhythms) - give a listen to this exciting version by Janine Jensen

 There is also a DVD of Henryk Szeryng playing with subtle musicality and great fervor and sentiment- it  also has a remarkable performance of the Ravel Tzigane as well.

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