Johannes Brahms: Hungarian Dance No.4


Johannes Brahms completed his 21 Hungarian Dances by 1879, and they still remain one his most popular collections of music. All of the dances are based on traditional Hungarian folk tunes and range from c.1 minute to 6 minutes in duration. Some of the dances have become much more recognisable than others, but as a set they are a force to be reckoned with. During this 21-part ‘Explore Hungarian Dances’ on Classicalexburns, we will be delving into the ins and outs of this famous collection.


The Music

Set in a moody F# minor, the fourth Hungarian Dance starts ‘Poco Sostenuto’ before changing into a quick ‘Vivace’. The long sweeping melody from the strings is rich and dense in texture, with Brahms really accentuating the harmonic changes. The woodwind dance above with their own theme, that soon gets tangled within the string theme. As the violins reach their upper register, the music moves into the much-anticipated Vivace section. 

The playful theme is raced through by the strings and accentuated by the rest of the orchestra. The brakes are hit fast and another rich and dramatic string-led motif is heard. Rich in texture and harmony this very Romantic interlude leads into a peppy pizzicato section. Led by the woodwind and accentuated by the plucked strings, this section shows the different kind of textures within the orchestras. The opening motif is then played out again, with the strings really milking this melody for all it’s worth. The woodwind accentuate and then join in with the melody, which adds another layer of texture to the mix. 

The Vivace section returns and the coda is full of fast melodies, excitement and a reprise of all the themes heard in this dance. The quick and dramatic changes give this dance its own special character that it is known for. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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