Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Four Slovak Folk Songs - Bartok (Sz. 70 BB. 78)

I am trying to research Bartok's Four Slovak Folk Songs for mixed voice with piano and it's not proving to be easy. 
I have done a great amount of reading of articles etc and what I am trying to find out is information about when this song cycle was first performed (the only hint of this is on this website where it suggests the first performance was in Budapest but I have no idea where the source information came from):
I am also researching noteable performances since it's first performance. 
And I am trying to locate the possible source material for the four songs in this song cycle. It seems to be a fairly unimportant piece in his compositional output, as it is only mentioned briefly in various texts. 
If anyone has any information they wish to share about this song cycle, I would be most greatful. 
Many thanks,
on June 18, 2013 6:15am
This information is not at all material to your research, but I rehearsed and conducted performances of these songs in 1967, in the original language, with the high school choir that I then led: Bel Canto Chorale, North Royalton High School, North Royalton, Ohio, USA. The singers and the accompanying pianist thoroughly enjoyed performing them, especially the second of the four.
I checked the link you provided and noticed that, according to that source, they were first performed on January 5, 1917. I would enjoy receiving any further results of your study of them if you would be so kind as to send me a summary of your findings. Good luck in your research.
Leon Thurman
The Leon Thurman Voice Center
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 28, 2013 6:02pm
Four Slovak Folksongs 
Sz 70
composed 1916-17
Here are some notes from by Alexander Carpenter: 

This cycle of folk songs arranged for mixed chorus is the only choral work Bartók ever composed with piano accompaniment. This work was composed in the same year as the Slovak Folksongs, Sz. 69, a cycle of soldiers' songs. Scholars are uncertain about which cycle was composed first: some suggest that the setting of the Four Slovak Folksongs is so harmonically simple that it must have come first, while others note that in this same cycle, the colorful harmonies generated from the inclusion of piano into the choral texture mark it as the more sophisticated work. It is true that the harmonic setting of the Four Slovak Folksongs is, for the most part, simple, and there is relatively little counterpoint: the folk tunes are either harmonized note for note, or are not harmonized at all, but sung in unison. The striking textual and timbral differences between the two works are worth noting.

The first song in the cycle is in triple meter, with a waltz feel and a minor key. The text consists of a dialogue between a mother and a daughter, that latter of whom is bitter at being sent away to another country to marry an evil man. The second song, a hay-making song, features an irregular metric structure and exchanges of thematic material between the chorus and the piano. The third song is jaunty and dance-like, while the fourth contains drones that evoke the sound of peasant bagpipes. The cycle increases in tempo over the course of the first three movements, only to slow down in the final movement (this large scale tempo plan, speeding up over the course of several movements only to slow down at the end, may be seen in several other works by Bartók). Though the texture is generally homophonic in these pieces, there is some polyphony, most notably some two-part imitation in the first movement, and a quasi-fugato in the third.

Bartók's earliest choral folk song settings--the cycles composed between 1910 and 1917--are all technically similar. Each cycle consists of unaltered folk tunes, set with simple, mostly chordal harmony, with the folk tunes appearing in the uppermost voice part. In later choral works derived from folk tunes, the individual songs or movements blended into each other, or were connected by original music, and there are introductions and codas. In the Four Slovak Folksongs, there is no such connecting music--the four tunes are kept separate--and there are no introductions or codas. The earlier choral works are generally easier to perform, and were likely intended for amateur choirs.

Applauded by an audience of 2
  • You must log in or register to be able to reply to this message.