The original title of the suite for piano of 6 short pieces, created by Bartok in 1915 was “Romanian folk dances from Hungary”. The orchestral version was made in 1917. At the heart of this cycle are authentic Romanian melodies, which the composer recorded in 1904 in several villages in Transylvania. Until its accession to Romania in 1920, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Therefore, the name of Hungary subsequently dropped from the title of the work. In the interpretation of the folklore sources, the composer preserved the melody and the rhythmic structure, reviving the plays with his harmonious colors. He was freer to choose the tempo: he made fast dances even faster and slow melodies – slower. Bartok found that Romanian folk music was much richer in diversity than Hungarian, intertwining the musical layers of different influences. This relatively closed ethnographic region provided an opportunity to trace the authentic roots of the local musical tradition. Quite different from the music performed by gypsy orchestras in the halls in Budapest and Vienna. Stimulating his imagination was not only the melodic-rhythmic richness, but also the wonderful combinations of local instruments such as violin, country flute, bagpipes. He recorded the first dance Jocul cu bâtă (Dance with sticks) with two virtuoso gypsies – violinists. The melody of Braul (Dance in a Circle) in its authentic form was performed on the flute, as well as Per loc (Dance in Place), which interwove the characteristic increased second of Middle Eastern music. Buciumeana (Dance of Buchum) sounds in a slower, pastoral tone than the energetic original. The fast Poarga Românească (Romanian Polka) and Mărunțel (Small Dance) crown the suite brilliantly.
“Romanian Folk Dances” is Bartok’s most popular opus. The suite has other arrangements – for violin and piano, for string quartet, for gypsy orchestra, but they are not the work of the composer.