Johannes Brahms: Hungarian Dances

The thought has crossed my mind that I ought to feel a bit embarrassed in choosing to write about yet another piece that was used in almost every other Warner’s Brothers cartoon. Yet, that is what I’ve done again today in spotlighting the Hungarian Dances. My feelings of embarrassment rise with the realization that I must have done little else but watch TV as a boy.

I did not begin to read books seriously until high school, so TV was about all the exposure I got to culture back then. It also meant I had to step back a little, when I started to criticize my daughters when I found them glued to the television on weekends. What is the mental process that turns all adults into hypocrites who forget what it was like to be a child?

It turns out that Brahms wrote 21 dances, referring to them as alla ungarese, (in the Hungarian style), which was not Hungarian per se, but meant based on popular gypsy melodies of the day. The tag has even fooled Hungarians—I find Danse 1, 5, and 6 on an album I own entitled Music From Hungary, and whenever these pieces were used in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, my father, whose father came to the US in 1904 from Hungary, claimed it was Liszt.

Listening to the full set, they bring back so many images—of mice dancing like Cossacks, characters chasing each other up and down stairs and slamming doors, and swelling romantic scenes. That is what makes these pieces so interesting: they change mood—sometimes abruptly—from slow, lushly orchestrated passages to quick, energetic and uplifting ones. Last Christmas, my daughters gave me a video that contained a number of Bugs Bunny cartoons. They never get stale for me, just as this music never does.


About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

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