"Hungarian Dances" No.1-10

The 20-year-old Johannes Brahms, determined to devote himself to music, supported himself by playing in pubs and dance locales, and was often hired as an accompanist. In 1853 the famous Hungarian violinist Ede [Eduard] Remenyi invited him to accompany him at the piano on his grand tour. This introduced Brahms to the rich Hungarian folklore, Remeniy improvising in an unrivalled ‘gypsy’ style. The young composer memorized many of the melodies, and loved to play them for friends. They gave him the idea to arrange them. In the original, Brahms wrote the Hungarian Dances for piano for 4 hands (1858-69) so that they could be played by amateurs at home. In 1869 he published the first 10 dances in two notebooks, in 1880 the remaining 11 in two more notebooks. These quickly became “hits” and his most lucrative publications. “They were the most practical pieces that a man as impractical as myself could offer,” Brahms recalled. With the exception of Dances Nos. 11, 14, and 16, which he wrote in a folkloric vein, all the others are based on traditional Hungarian models. Some of them were also based on themes by Hungarian composers whose authorship he did not know – such as the popular dance No. 5, based on Béla Keller’s czardasch Remembrance of Bartfa. Brahms orchestrated three of the dances (Nos. 1, 3 and 10), which were publicly premiered on 5 February 1874 in Leipzig under his baton.  The others were arrangements by other composers, dance No. 5 was orchestrated by Martin Schmeling.

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