The Kennedy Center

Romanian Folk Dances

About the Work

Béla Bartók Composer: Béla Bartók
© Peter Laki

These six short dances were originally composed for piano in 1915.  Bartók orchestrated them in 1917.  The orchestral version was premiered in Budapest on February 11, 1918, under the direction of Emil Lichtenberg.

The dances run about 6 minutes in performance, and are scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, and strings. 

One of Bartók's most popular works, the Romanian Folk Dances are based on instrumental melodies the composer had heard, and recorded on phonograph cylinders, during his ethnomusicological fieldwork in Transylvania in 1910 and 1912.  Bartók added only the most modest accompaniments to the folk melodies, yet, despite the economy of the means used. He managed to provide a rich and original harmonic coloring and an exciting rhythmic foundation.  The individual dances are contrasted in tempo and mood, ranging from the hauntingly lyrical to the exuberant.

The Romanian movement titles translate as follows:  1. Dance with sticks - 2. Waistband Dance - 3. Stamping Dance (?in one spot") - 4. Horn Sance - 5. Romanian Polka - 6. Quick Dance (this movement actually combines two different dance melodies).