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By the time he had reached his early 20s, Béla Bartók had developed into a latter-day Brahmsian, Straussian, etc., his craftsmanship solid but his inclinations somewhat frozen on the Germanic vine. Then, as if by some providential leading, he became interested in his native folk music, interest became absorption, and absorption an abiding passion. On countless field trips into the hinterlands of his own and neighboring countries, the young composer collected thousands of folk songs, thus enriching his country’s culture and, immeasurably, his art. Nothing he wrote after this folk immersion was untouched by one or more of the elements of the native music: irregular rhythms; modes; exotic scale combinations; severely simple melodies; and the driving passionate temperament of the folk models.

The present dances, written originally (1915) for piano and later orchestrated by the composer (1917), are based upon the fiddle-tunes of the Transylvanian districts and vary in mood from the vital haughtiness of the Stick Dance, to the insinuating flirtatiousness of the Sash Dance, the Orientalism of the dance to be performed “In one spot,” the gentility of the Horn Dance, the rhythmic lift of the Romanian polka, and the bold vigor of the final two dances.

Orrin Howard