Saturday, March 28, 2009


Hungarian Folk Song

Some info on Hungarian Soprano, Erika Miklósa

Interview with composer: Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
Listen to him speaking about his music.

Bartók plays Bartók Romanian Dance no. 1
Many other performances of the composer playing his own music at Youtube!

I wasn't able to find very many examples of Bartok or Kodaly Songs. But here is the wonderful Lucia Popp,who was born in Slovakia (formerly Czechoslovakia) with pianist, Geoffrey Parsons. She sings four Kodaly Folk Songs in Hungarian and according to Kata, her pronunciation is perfect!
Zoltán Kodály: "Magyar népzene" (Hungarian Folk Music/Ungarische Volksmusik)

"Akkor szép az erdő" (Lovely is the forest/Schön ist' s im Walde)

"Kocsi, szekér" (Wheelcart, barrow/Noch ein Monat)

"Ifjúság, mint sólyommadár" (A Little Sad Song/Jugend)



  1. Here are some great links supplied by Kata. I love the traditional folk music. It's very moving and powerful. Köszönöm/Thank you!

    Folk Music:

    Hungarian Opera:

    Hungarian Operetta:


    Choral Music:

  2. I agree that it is very moving and powerful. There is a mystic quality to the music as if the old stories are still living and breathing in the folk of Hungary and their songs. To an extent, I think that that quality is present in their architecture and other aspects of the culture as well. Now, I was only in Budapest and a little village up the Danube, but I felt pretty confident that the vestiges of older architecture that I saw were consistent with this observation. I loved the soprano singing a capella! She had such a beautiful clear tone! She really has a gift for transporting the listener into a different time and place. Her intonation sounded pretty flawless to me. I commented on the Czech that I thought it sounded like a water language. I would say that the Hungarian sounds like a language from the wind. The vowels are especially haunting.

  3. Hearing Bartok speak about his music and play was very enjoyable. I find it interesting the extent to which composers are influenced by national dance forms... everyone from Bach to Beethoven to Bartok wrote dance music. It reminds me of some advice a piano teacher once gave me regarding musical interpretation: Make it sing or make it dance.

    I found another link with Bartok at the piano with a singer:

  4. Thanks so much Michael, I missed those.
    Here's another. From "Five Hungarian Folk Tunes" - No. 1 Far behind I left my country, No. 2 Crossing the river... Elindultam szép hazámból

  5. Such a humble and feeble voice Bartok had! Such a contrast to his some of his music: so driven and bombastic. The video of the Hungarian folk song we learned today is especially powerful. I agree with Michael that the vowels are haunting! Such distance between vowels too.

  6. I am thoroughly enjoying listening to Lucia Popp sing Kodaly! I'll be honest, I didn't previously know that Kodaly composed art song, so it is exciting to hear these works. I especially enjoyed the third, Ifjúság, mint sólyommadár. At times the piano seems to switch between imitating the voice and then a strummed guitar accompaniment. On a personal note, I had no idea she was Slovak; I'm inspired!

    I'm not sure what Erika Miklósa said in her introduction of the piece, but I loved the simple presentation of the song with violin and voice. It seems to be full of significance, even when it sticks close to the initial theme, contained within a perfect fourth.

    It was interesting to observe the audience's reaction after the folk song. One can tell that rhythm and dance are an inherent part of this culture. Few American audiences as a whole could come close to maintaining such a consistent tempo for that long.

  7. There's such a timeless quality about this kind of folk music. It affects you differently than a beautiful piece of classical music would; it may not be as complex or intellectually involved, but it has the ability to move someone just as much (or even more so) than classical music. I think that maybe this kind of music feeds that part of us that we tend to neglect as a society; we are so busy being "scholarly", and valuing art and music for its complexity and technical prowess, that we forget about the part of us that craves simplicity and a sense of connection with the people around us. I also think that's why folk- influenced classical music is so awesome- it combines the emotional power of folk with the complexity of art music.

  8. A Little explanation about Erika`s speech. She used to be a "wedding singer" in high school and she always sung folk songs. Even though she pursuing her carrier as an renowned opera singer, she feels strongly about Hungarian folk music and takes it as her duty to sing it each time she got a chance. She dedicates the Madarka, madarka song to her opera singer friend, Gregor Jozsef who passed away a few years ago. Great singer!

  9. I thought it was interesting how while listening to the first folk song, I had this small flash of an Irish folk tune. Then Bartok, in his interview, referred to the sound of bag pipes being in his folk songs. And again, i have to agree with jake. His voice totally surprised me. It was how i felt the first time i heard John Cage speak. i didn't think it could be real. There was such a haunting theme to all the music in this section. I enjoyed freaking myself out a little.

  10. Listening to Bartok play his piano work was delightful. What was striking to me was how much the Eastern European harmonies used (in the solo piece and other links posted) are so similar to what we hear in Jazz. There obviously is some sort of connection between these genres of music. Very cool.

  11. I've listened to Erika's recording several times now, and each time listening, I am struck by the richness of her tone. Even such a simple folk melody sounds really interesting.

  12. The first thing that strikes me when hearing a folk melody like this is that, even with all of our modern theoretical approaches to music and thick or dissonant harmonies, few pieces can send a chill down my spine like this kind of unaccompanied singing. There is a deep, human pathos there not to be found in accompanied song. It is nice to hear a folk melody like this before it has been incorporated into some larger work.

  13. I love Bartok's realization of the dance. He plays it with incredible balance to what is important. The main melodic element of the piece is always brought to the forefront but the thing that excites me is the accompaniment. The accompaniment is always changing in approach. Sometimes it is seeming to slightly rush forward on the front of the beat while sometimes it is patiently sitting in the beat giving the next rhythmic "pop" when needed.

  14. I'm so sad the Lucia Popp recording has been taken down! It looks like no one else has re-posted it, either.

    I never thought I'd be able to hear Bartok play, let alone speak. The crispness of the rhythms in all of this music struck me, especially after having just listened to Chopin's songs. The folk and dance influence is present in both, but Chopin's rubato gives an entirely different feel than Bartok's.

  15. Reading others' comments about the timelessness of this folk music and its depth, I can't help but think back to our conversation in class about American folk songs and how little we seem to value them. Over the past couple of weeks I've given my keyboard skills students different American folk tunes to harmonize, and they never seem to know them, which still surprises me. Our folk songs don't reach as far back as these do - we are, after all, a relatively young nation, and a nation of immigrants - but what do we lose by neglecting to pass them down? Or is it just that our folk music lacks the time and weight of tradition which these songs have?

  16. What a haunting folk melody! I absolutely love that the soprano put an acappella folk tune on a program - it's the way those tunes were meant to be performed and so seldom are. Setting it up with the violin solo was also a beautiful choice. It must have been a special treat for the audience.

  17. I really enjoyed Erika Miklosa’s performance of the Hungarian Folksong. Madárka means, “birdie” in English and I came across a translation after scrolling down to read the comments on YouTube. This translation might not be completely accurate, but I think it’s pretty close.

    "Birdie, birdie, twittering birdie,
    Take my letter, take my letter to my beautiful Hungarian home.
    If they ask who sent it, tell them it was sent by that person,
    whose heart rives in the sorrow, in the ache of his heart."

    The woman, who is longing for her lover, asks the bird to send a letter to him in her homeland of Hungary. After reading some more comments, I also discovered that this folk song is especially popular in Hungary and it was requested by her audience that she sing Hungarian Folk songs. The pureness in Erika’s voice gives this tune a tender quality that is so mesmerizing and even more transcending sung without accompaniment.

  18. I just love Erika Miklósa's voice!! It soars beautifully with a dignified sound. I listened to the video a few more times. Then, I immediately searched YouTube for more of her performances and found a recording of her singing the Queen of the Night that was uploaded June 7, 2009. It's just superb!! It's amazing how the two pieces of Bartok represented here are so different from each other that it seems as if they came from different composers. Very few composers are able to achieve such a wide spectrum in their creation. The fact that Bartok was heavily influenced by folk music enabled him to be versatile.

  19. WOW! Isn't it profound how sometimes the most simple things can be the most beautiful? From the violin at the beginning, I was transfixed. I'm glad she sang this song acapella, so we could really appreciate the text, the line, the intent.

  20. I enjoyed Miklosa's performance of a Hungarian folk song. Any folk music has a warmth that anyone can feel even if one doesn't understand the words. The Romanian Dance uses a large range of the piano but uses the lower notes frequently. It reminds me of some the Spanish music we listened to in class because of the passion and virtuosity of the piece.

  21. I loved the folk song performed by Erika Miklósa. I was surprised to hear such a complex melody in a folk tune. With such a beautiful folk tradition in Eastern Europe it is not surprising that composers like Bartok and Kodaly should seek to preserve it. I am always mesmerized when I hear composers from this period recorded talking about or playing their works. Hearing someone's voice, to me, just makes them feel like so much more of a real person than just a name in the upper right-hand corner of a score.

  22. Hearing Bartok play reminded once more that his music (or why not music in general?) should never be played with that machine-like metronomical regularity that some musicians are so eager to achieve, but should be played with contrasting colorful tones instead. Why do I usually hear musicians speaking of timbric color, maybe harmonic color, but never of rhythmic color?