Romanian Folk Dances (Hungarian: Román népi táncok), Sz. 56, BB 68 is a suite of six short piano pieces composed by Béla Bartók in 1915. He later orchestrated it for small ensemble in 1917 as Sz. 68, BB 76.
It is based on seven Romanian tunes from Transylvania, originally played on fiddle or shepherd's flute. The original name for the piece was titled Romanian Folk Dances from Hungary (Magyarországi román népi táncok) but was later changed by Bartók when Romania annexed Transylvania in 1918-1920. It is nowadays available in the 1971 edition which is written with key signatures although Bartók rarely ever wrote key signatures.
This set of dances consists of six movements and, according to the composer, it should take four minutes and three seconds to perform, but most professional pianists take up to five minutes. The list of the movements is as follows. The original Hungarian title will be in the first place, the most commonly known title in Romanian will be in the second place and the translation into English will be in parentheses:
The melody of the first movement, according to Bartók, came from Mezőszabad (present-day Voiniceni) village that was part of Mezőcsávás (present-day Ceuașu de Câmpie) commune which was located in the Maros-Torda administrative county within Transylvania, and he first heard it when two gypsy violinists were playing it. The second movement is a typical dance from Romania called Brâul, for which traditionally a sash or a waistband was used. This melody came from Egres (present-day Igriș), in the Banat region. The third dance comes also from Egres (Igriș), but its theme is much darker and its melody recreates Middle Eastern instruments, such as the flute. The fourth dance came from Bucsony (present-day Bucium), in the district of Torda-Aranyos (today Alba county in Romania). The fifth dance is an old Romanian dance similar to the Polka and comes from Belényes (present-day Beiuş, in Bihor county), near the border between Hungary and Romania. The sixth and last dance is formed by two different melodies: the first one comes from Belényes (present-day Beiuș) and the second one comes from the then named Nyagra (present-day Neagra) village within the Palotailva (present-day Lunca Bradului) commune. Both on the orchestral version and on the original piano version, these two dances are performed without a discernible pause, the reason for which is anyone's guess.
All of the movements are composed according to the rules of the musical modes, which state that all melodies are to be written according to a specific order of tones and semitones.
Aside from the version Bartók wrote for a small orchestral ensemble, some of Bartók's friends wrote adaptations or transcriptions of this piece for several different ensembles. The following list shows some of the most published of them:
Notable recordings of this composition include:
Notable recordings of the arrangement by Zoltán Székely include: