Hungarian Dance No 5 by Brahms, like Monti’s Czardas in the the previous post, is another one of those flamboyant pieces riding at the edge of passionate abandon. Johannes Brahms borrowed the melody for his four hands piano composition thinking it was a Hungarian folk tune, not knowing it was written by Hungarian composer-conductor Béla Kéler. Martin Schmeling arranged it for orchestra and its popularity produced numerous arrangements for other instruments.
Violinists such as Joseph Joachim and Fritz Kreisler wrote arrangements for violin that make dramatic use of chords, double stops and higher registers. The easy version in this post is a good concert solo for violinists at about Volume 4 level.
(On a personal note, although I didn’t get the opportunity to know my Hungarian grandfather, I inherited a love of the music of his country – prompting a visit to the Liszt Academy in Budapest a couple of years ago during a dark and icy European winter. We realised while we were there that in addition to producing great music and musicians, Hungarians also make the best cherry tart on the planet.)
Main Points of Interest
Unlike Czardas, Hungarian Dance No. 5 crackles with energy from the very first note. Some violinists – like gypsy violin wizard Roby Lakatos in the video below – insert their own slow intro, yet I wonder if it’s better to resist the temptation to embellish the start and to jump right in without any warning. This way soloist can surprise and delight the audience with a dramatic entry immediately after coming on to stage. So be meticulously rehearsed and prepared, but don’t wait around for everyone to settle. Wow them with the raw vitality of your exuberance.
Brahms increases the excitement in measure 13 with rapid semiquavers in descending sequences, played with sautillé bowing. (You can find a demonstration of this technique here.) Train yourself to leave the lower finger down in each of these four note groups for the best results.
At measure 25, a variation of measure 9, begin the ascending arpeggio on the second beat.
The finale of Hungarian Dance rushes off to finish with a flourish. For a bit of extra bravura, throw off the last upbow stroke and take your bow in a single motion. Try to get the audience to spontaneously stand and applaud!
Maxim Vengerov, showing off…
In contrast with Yehudi Menuhin’s restraint…
8 year old Leia Zhu…
and Roby Lakatos in the studio.
I hope you enjoy playing and teaching this easy piece. As you can see with Leia Zhu’s performance, Hungarian Dance will continue to challenge and thrill future generations of violinists. Let’s keep it alive!
The violin score is now available for download in Resources.