Bartók left few stones unturned in the 153-work Mikrokosmos. It is what some will describe as the most complete, step-by-step series of instructional pieces for pianists of varying levels. But more than that, it can be viewed as one of the greatest collections of piano compositions in any category. The works increase in difficulty as one moves from piece to piece. This work, Five-Tone Scale, straddles the realms of both composition and keyboard technique. The five-tone (or pentatonic) scale stands in contrast to the diatonic (eight-tone) and chromatic (12-tone) scales.
This is the second of three pieces in the set dealing with the pentatonic scale, the others being No. 61 (Pentatonic Melody) and No. 105 (Game With Two Pentatonic Scales). In Five-Tone Scale Bartók presents a theme related to those in several previous pieces, particularly the one in Hungarian Song (No. 74) and the menacing creation in Little Study (No. 77). The melody in Five-Tone Scale is busy and rhythmic, detached though in its seeming hurry to curtly present its bucolic blustery mood. The piece lasts a mere half minute, but will yield admittedly fleeting rewards to the listener.