Béla Bartók

Hungarian Peasant Songs (15) for piano, Sz. 71, BB 79

    Description by Robert Cummings

    The Hungarian Peasant Songs (15) are short piano arrangements of folk melodies and collectively form an unusual superstructure: the set is cast in two parts, the first consisting of six pieces whose first four works, each subtitled "Old Lament," are based on the same folk theme; and the last part consisting of nine pieces, each subtitled "Old Dance Tune"; together they are designed to form a four-movement entity of its own. Thus one might extract two or more separate but related collections from this colorful set.

    The first four of the Hungarian Peasant Songs, as mentioned above, use the same theme. All are melancholy in character, with the funereal No. 1 and the skeletal No. 3 the darkest and most somber. The Second has an almost Gershwinian manner in its sadness, while the Fourth is comparatively vigorous and muscular.

    No. 5, Scherzo, is playful and mischievous, offering needed contrast to the generally lugubrious character of the previous pieces, and No. 6, Ballade, is powerful and ultimately tragic, and at two-and-a-half minutes, the longest of the 15 pieces in the set.

    The Seventh piece leads off the second part of the collection with a vigorous, colorful rendition of its attractive source melody. The next three pieces offer variants on this same theme, while concluding this, the first of the four inner movements from the second part. No. 8 is comparatively sedate, sounding slower than its Allegretto marking, while the Ninth, lasting all of 10 or 12 seconds, has a colorful, rollicking character. The Tenth is playful and less aggressive, and No. 11 melancholy and passionate.

    No. 12 presents a melody that is actually a variant on the theme in No. 11. Marked Allegretto, it is chipper and lively and offers deft contrast to the preceding gloomy music. No. 13 is a very fast variant of the theme in No. 11 and near the end reprises material from No. 12, thereby forming a sort of Trio and concluding section within the second movement (Scherzo). The lively but agitated No. 14 is the third movement and presents yet another variant on the theme in No. 11. The last piece, the finale to the inner work as well as to the whole set, is based on a bagpipe melody and moves from the exotic to the frantic.

    Parts/Movements

    1. No. 1, Old Tune
    2. No. 2, Old Tune
    3. No. 3, Old Tune
    4. No. 4, Old Tune
    5. No. 5, Scherzo
    6. No. 6, Ballade (Tema con variazioni)
    7. No. 7, Old Dance Tune
    8. No. 8, Old Dance Tune
    9. No. 9, Old Dance Tune
    10. No. 10, Old Dance Tune
    11. No. 11, Old Dance Tune
    12. No. 12, Old Dance Tune
    13. No. 13, Old Dance Tune
    14. No. 14, Old Dance Tune
    15. No. 15, Old Dance Tune

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 BMC Records BMCCD 265
    2016 Hyperion CDA 68123
    2016 Decca 4789311
    2016 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic HC 16020
    2015 Centaur Records CRC 34013402
    2015 MSR Classics MS 1410
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon / Eloquence 4807100
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMC 902163
    2012 Melodiya MELCD 1002064
    2011 Decca
    2010 Decca 4782364
    2010 Decca
    2010 Denon Records
    2009 Medici Arts 4265-2
    2008 Hungaroton 32527
    2008 Melodiya 1000734
    2007 Brilliant Classics 8529
    2007 Naxos 8558200
    2006 MSR Records 1114
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946350869
    2006 Warner Classics
    2006 Arbiter ARBITER149
    2005 Philips 000531102
    2004 Eroica Distribution 3136
    2004 Centaur Records 2663
    2004 Camerata Records 28004
    2003 Vox 3610
    2002 Hungaroton 31860
    2002 Fleur de Son 57956
    2002 Parnassus Records 96013/4
    2001 Hungaroton 32055
    2001 Centaur Records 2494
    2001 Naxos 554717
    2000 Hungaroton 41002
    2000 Eroica Distribution 3000
    1999 Chandos 9761
    1998 Point Classics 2672322
    1996 Classical Diamonds 4001
    1996 Hungaroton 31655
    1996 Melodiya 29460
    1995 Vanguard 8087
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 68275
    1995 Melodiya 29465
    1994 Hungaroton 1232628
    1994 Naxos 550451
    1993 Denon Records 7092
    1992 ASV 687
    BBC Legends 4054
    Erato 98476
    Giulia Recordings 201036
    Cambria 1119