Thursday, June 2, 2016

Brahms and the Hungarian Dances

None of these had opus numbers for but a few of them were actually by Brahms. But he arranged them in these timeless masterpieces nonetheless and during his lifetime everyone wanted to hear them and play them so their publication made him money. These pieces are an important statement concerning the actual natural boundary between the classical formalism of serious art music and the popular genres of folk music.

There are 21 Hungarian Dances (German: Ungarische Tänze) arranged in books that were published periodically throughout Brahms' life.

Brahms' usual method was supposedly to begin by arranging the dance for piano four hands. Ten of them he would later reduce to solo piano editions. A few of them were also orchestrated by Brahms and are among the backbone pieces of the orchestral repertoire to this day. For our featured performances we're sticking to piano four hands versions, live and recent wherever possible.
Hungarian Dances
Book 1. (Published in 1869) [Brahms is 36]

1. in g minor: Allegro molto 

We couldn't resist featuring a performance on a Stewart & Sons piano from Australia.

2. in d minor: Allegro non assai –Vivace 
3. in F major: Allegrett 

We particularly like the venues where you can sometimes hear this music played live. This kind of performance is closest to the very spirit of Western music itself. 

4. in f minor: Poco sostenuto –Vivace 

Notice what is required by the pianists.

5. in f♯ minor: Allegro– Vivace

This one of course is famous, but strictly speaking, not by Brahms. It is said that this piece is based on the csárdás by Béla Kéler titled "Bártfai emlék." Brahms had mistakenly thought this an anonymous Hungarian tune.

Book 2. (Published in 1869)
6. in D♭ major: Vivace

A nice Steinway there.

7. in A major: Allegretto – Vivo 

A nice Yamaha is featured there.

8. in A minor: Presto

A nice concert grand that appears to be something other than a Steinway.

9. in e minor: Allegro ma non troppo

Pretty sure this is a Steinway.

10. in E major: Presto

Book 3. (Published in 1880) [Brahms is 47]
11. in d minor: Poco andante [by Brahms]

Certainly among my favourites of the entire set. I'm not somehow surprised to learn that this one was written totally by Brahms. 
12. in d minor: Presto 

An ardent and passionate performance from a past era of pianism. 

13. in D major: Andantino grazioso – Vivace 
14. in d minor: Un poco andante [by Brahms]

This too is one totally by Brahms and the structures of the tunes and the chromatic sliding as well as every other element is typical of Brahms. It's also among the shortest and most terse of these pieces.

15. in B♭ major: Allegretto grazioso 
16. in f minor: Con moto – F major: Presto [by Brahms]

This too is a conservative piece in this set. The presto and other short themes are among the finest in the whole set and of course they are completely Brahms.

Book 4. (Published in 1880)
17. in f♯ minor: Andantino – Vivace 

A classic performance from the 1950's by a famous piano duo.

18. in D major: Molto vivace 

Don't try this at home. But this is really the kind of thing you want to achieve if you can do it. Notice the amount of energy minus the volume required. Quite challenging.
19. in b minor: Allegretto
20. in e minor: Poco allegretto – Vivace 
21. in e minor: Vivace – E major: Più presto 

So, you can see that we'd really appreciate seeing more newer fresher recordings of these pieces up on YouTube from today's up and coming pianistic talent.