Five Hungarian Folk Songs, BB 108

On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Budapest Philharmonic Society, Béla Bartók composed an orchestral version for five of the Twenty Hungarian Folk Songs (1929). The new version was first performed by Mária Basilides, with Ernő Dohnányi conducting the Hungarian Philharmonic Society Orchestra on 23 October 1933.

Bartók ingeniously arranged the folk songs. “The peasant melody only serves as a motto while that which is built round it is of real importance,” he wrote. Consequently, while his respect for the original folk song is evident throughout the piece, the accompaniment entwines it and places the simple melodies in a new context altogether. The result is not an arrangement but an original composition. However, the often surprising tone of the “accompaniment” and the means of arrangement are never self-serving. The first two movements of the orchestrated version (In Prison, Old Lament) were part of the “Sad songs” part of the original series, and the other three (Yellow foal, with a bell, Complaint, There is light in the Virág’s window)were part of the “Mixed songs” section.