Béla Bartók (1881-1945), the greatest Hungarian composer, was often heralded as one of the most significant musicians of the twentieth century. His music was invigorated by the themes, modes, and rhythmic patterns of the Hungarian and other folk music traditions from Eastern Europe he studied, which he synthesized with influences from his contemporaries into his own distinctive style.
Bartók also became interested in other folk traditions, studying the folk music of Romanians, Slovakians, Serbs, Croatians, Bulgarians, Turks, and North Africans as well as Hungarians. In 1906, while visiting Algeria, Bartók had a vision of how he might begin to order scattered folk tunes of the world. This, as he recalled, ended any desire on his part for the kind of career others had projected for him, as "the future master of the most charming salon music." Afterwards, the main task of his life was to collect, analyze, and catalogue major portions of the world's folk music.
The Romanian Folk Dances are works based on folksongs and dances collected by Bartók from peasants and Gypsies during his pioneering ethno-musicological field trips through Hungary in 1910-14.Even in the simplest setting, Bartók often varies a voice in the accompaniment, slightly changing the "color" of the chord, avoiding verbatim repetition of a phrase. All of this happens in the briefest of time spans. The Rumanian Folk Dances presents each of the seven dances (the sixth movement is actually comprised of two distinct folk tunes) without any reprise of material.
The first dance, which translates into English as "dance with a staff" or stick (what the dancer is doing with the stick is anyone’s guess) is from the Maros-Torda region. Bartók reported that it was played to him by two Rumanian Gypsy violinists from Màramaros. The Bràul is a dance that involves the use of a waistband or sash. The lovely third dance, in which the violin imitates the sound of a rustic flute, while the piano acts as a drone, translates roughly into "the Stomper." Both of these dances are from Torontàl. Another lovely melody is presented in The Dance of the Buscum People from Torda-Aranyos. Next we have a Rumanian "Polka" from Bihar. Finally, the last movement is made up of two fast dances; Manuntelul for couples, from Behar and Torda-Aranyos.
Here's a great piece from Bartok that i really like:
Bela Bartok - Romanian Folk Dances
thanks to Classical Music of St. Petersburg, Russia