Not to be confused with the 1917 Four Slovak Folksongs for chorus and piano, Sz. 69, this assemblage makes for an odd group within the composer's output. The second song was lost shortly after its 1907 Berlin premiere, but in some recordings of this set it has been replaced by "Tony Whirls the Spindle," a 1916 song never published in Bartók's lifetime and rediscovered in 1963. But this latter effort is usually placed fourth here, with the original No. 3, "Dirge," performed as No. 2, and the fourth item, "The Message," assuming the third spot.
The first of these folk song arrangements is "Roses in the Fields," also known as "Near the Borders of Bistrita." Not quite two minutes in duration, it is a lovely song whose pastoral character is infused with a sense of yearning. In the latter half, the vocalist is silent, while the piano plays a mesmerizing swirling figure and soothing, gentle chords. "Dirge," No. 3, is melancholy and lonely in its lovely vocal theme and dark sorrowful manner. The text of this two-and-a-half-minute effort tells of a character's mourning over the loss of his father.
"The Message," No. 4, at about three minutes is the longest of the songs here. It has a Romantic character and somewhat Lisztian accompaniment, with the piano providing a dark, powerful close to this song about a carrier pigeon bringing news to a young woman of her betrothed's death. The mostly energetic "Tony Whirls the Spindle" is brief (about 45 seconds) and humorous, and features a zany text said to be poking fun at a one-time Bartók flame, the poet Klara Gombossy.