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Romantic Unit 1: Early ViolinUnit 2: Baroque Musical Period Unit 3: Classical Musical Period Unit 4: Romantic Musical Period Unit 5: 20th Century Musical PeriodUnit 6: Non Traditional



Hungarian Dance No. 5
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Fig. 4.2 Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), the composer of Hungarian Dance No. 5, was a German composer and came from a family of musicians. He began studying music at an early age, first with his father and later with teachers such as Eduard Marxsen, a prominent Hamburg pianist and composer. Brahms began his career as a musician when he was employed as a pianist to play popular music in local theaters and at eating and entertainment houses for the working class called Schänken. He also supplemented his income by composing arrangements for ensembles such as brass bands. These activities caused Brahms to become extremely interested in folk music, and he began compiling collections of European folksongs. His interest in folk music continued throughout his life, and one area of folk music which particularly fascinated Brahms, was the Hungarian style of gypsy music called style hongrois [1].

In 1853, Brahms went on a concert tour as an accompanist for the Hungarian violinist Eduard Remenyi. While on tour, he met notable musicians such as Franz Liszt, the prominent violinist Joseph Joachim, and Robert and Clara Schumann. Robert Schumann invited Brahms to move to his home to study music with him, and while there, Brahms developed a close friendship with the Schumann family. When Robert Schumann was hospitalized for mental illness, Brahms stayed to assist the family, and eventually fell in love with Robert's wife, Clara. Clara was fourteen years older than Brahms, and was a gifted musician too (she was a brilliant pianist and a fine composer). When Robert died, leaving Clara free to marry, Brahms moved away, possibly frightened by the thought of losing his freedom (Clara was the mother of seven children). Although Brahms never married, he continued to express his love for Clara and her children throughout his life.

Brahms composed Hungarian Dance No. 5 in 1868, and it was part of a set of 21 Hungarian folk dances for solo piano, four-hand (four-hand piano music is written for two pianists, using the same piano). These dances were based on Hungarian folk tunes, and the lively rhythm and pleasing melody made them very popular, particularly with amateur musicians who enjoyed playing music in their homes. Brahms later arranged ten of these dances for solo piano, but some of the most frequently performed versions of his Hungarian Dances are orchestral arrangements by other composers. [2]

TECHNIQUE TIPS: This arrangement of Hungarian Dance No. 5 features tempo changes such as rubato and ritardando (abbreviated as rit.). Rubato is an Italian term that means means "robbed," and it refers to a temporary robbing of time by either slowing or speeding the tempo or rhythmic value of notes in a passage of music. Ritardando means to gradually become slower and slower. This piece is a dance, and the dots over some of the notes indicate that a spicatto bow stroke should be used. Spicatto is an off-the-string, controlled bouncing bow stroke that produces a crisp sound and very short notes. Other bowing indications include the tenuto sign, a line drawn over or under the note: _ to indicate the note should be played sustained or broadly, and held for its whole value.

This piece also has sections with repeat signs, a first and second ending, and the sign D.C. al Coda (D.C. is an abbreviation for "da capo", and means "from the beginning," and coda means "tail," and refers to a concluding section of a piece). A double bar with two dots is a repeat marking, and indicates the music in between the repeat signs should be repeated. First and second endings should be played as follows: play the first ending the first time through the music, and then return to the beginning of the piece. When playing through the music for a second time, the first ending should be skipped over, and the second ending should be played. Towards the end of the piece, in measure 50, there is a repeat sign and a D.C. al Coda marking with the added notation, 2x. This means the D.C. al Coda marking should not be followed until you are playing through the music for the second time (after you've repeated the section). This should be played as follows: when you reach the repeat sign in measure 50, return to the repeat marking in measure 43, and repeat the section. When you reach the D.C. al Coda marking in measure 50 for the second time, go back to the beginning of the piece, play to the Coda sign: coda, then jump to the Coda section at the end to finish the piece (beginning in measure 51). A quadruple stop, a chord using four strings, is found in the last measure of this arrangement. To play the quadruple stop, let your bow balance on the lower two strings to play the lower double stop first, then quickly roll to the upper two strings and play the upper double stop. If this is too difficult, simply play the top note of the chord.