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Brahms’s Hungarian Dances and the Early ‘Csárdás’ Recordings
journal contributionposted on 2023-07-26, 15:49 authored by Jon Banks
The relationship of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances to their origins has been a subject of enquiry ever since they were first published. This article extends previous investigations of Brahms’s written sources to include the many 78rpm recordings of ‘traditional’ Hungarian music made shortly after his death. It establishes that nearly half of the Brahms melodies appear in the repertory of popular recording artists such as the so-called ‘Gypsy bands’, and that many of these artists had been active in Vienna during Brahms’s lifetime. It identifies other performing contexts—military bands, popular songs, salon pieces—and argues that the ‘Hungarian Dances’ are an invented amalgamation of several distinct genres, reflecting Brahms’s urban experience and musical interests. The article compares Brahms’s arrangements with the same tunes in oral tradition where possible and considers the wider implications of the recorded legacy for our understanding of the ‘style hongrois’ and Brahms’s appropriation of it.
Publication titleMusic and Letters
PublisherOxford University Press