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Six Romanian Folk Dances

Bela Bartok
Difficult (Grades 7+)
5 minutes
Modern classical music
Quartet (Clarinet in Bb)

Bartok's Six Romanian Folk Dances grew out of his work collecting and transcribing folk tunes from his native Hungary and the surrounding nations. First written for piano in 1915, these pieces were arranged for orchestra by Bartok himself, and for various other forces (notably for solo violin and solo clarinet, with piano accompaniment) by other hands.

This arrangement aims to evoke the Eastern-European sound world which is difficult to achieve on a piano. A soprano saxophone is used in three of the movements; this should aim to emulate the darker sound of the Tarogato (an instrument a bit like a wooden saxophone which is found in Hungarian and Romanian folk music), rather than the excessively thin and bright tone sometimes produced by soprano saxophonists. The melody of the third dance is often heard in violin harmonics, or on the piccolo in Bartok's orchestrated version. In order to find this type of sound from within the clarinet family I have scored it alternatively for A flat piccolo clarinet, or for overblown chalumeau in C (this instrument is fairly cheaply and readily available from folk instrument suppliers). If neither of these is available, an alternative part for Eb clarinet is supplied. All players should aim to sound as thin and feeble as possible in this movement! If necessary, the soprano saxophone parts in movements 2, 5 and 6 could be played on Bb clarinet, although at the expense of a more monochrome sound.

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