The Kennedy Center

Hungarian Dance No. 3

About the Work

National Symphony Orchesra Composer Portraits - Johannes Brahms Composer: Johannes Brahms
© Peter Laki

Originally composed for piano, four hands, these dances are based on melodies of the Roma people, who contributed so richly to the cultures explored in The Music of Budapest, Prague, and Vienna. They attracted enormous attention when published and soon were being arranged for different combinations of instruments. Their success was such that Brahms' publisher-to whose attention Brahms had drawn the work of a young rising Czech composer named Antonín Dvorák-offered Dvorák the opportunity to compose the Slavonic Dances. Dvorák not only accepted the offer, but also orchestrated some of Brahms' Hungarian Dances into the bargain. Brahms himself orchestrated Nos. 1 and 3; the fifth dance was orchestrated by Martin Schmeling.

Did You Know? Twenty-one Hungarian Dances in four books, published in two parts for piano four hands. Brahms had become interested in Hungarian music as a young musician, just beginning his career, while on a tour with the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi. Another Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim, perhaps the greatest violin virtuoso of the day, also became a friend and musical collaborator, and Brahms' interest in the musical idioms grew. The piano versions were then arranged...and arranged...and arranged for different instruments, different groupings, and by many musicians. One of the more unusual is Edward Laut's arrangement for cello quartet, performed by NSO members in a free concert on the Millennium Stage in 2009.