Béla Bartók: Dance of the Slovaks from Ten Easy Pieces

dance of the slovaks

One of the more popular of the Ten Easy Pieces, this piece is in the style of a folksong, and is replete with indications of touch and dynamics.

The accented downbeats (mm. 5, 10, 18, 21, etc.) emulate the Hungarian language in which the first syllable is always emphasized. The five-measure melody is introduced, in the tonic, by an unaccompanied solo line. It is then doubled (two voices, one octave apart), suggesting, perhaps, a mixed choir. These two statements are followed by the melody being fragmented (mm. 11–12, 13–14, etc.), and augmented through repetitions (mm. 23–25, 44), through the addition of measures (mm. 19, 30), and/or with the addition of rests (mm. 33, 36). This piece is replete with indications of touch and dynamics:

  • Note that just about every note has at least one touch/accent marking.
  • First, let’s take a look at the various accents on the syncopated motive:
  1. mm. 5, 10, 18, 43, marcato-staccato followed by tenuto
  2. m. 21, marcato-staccato followed by a non tenuto note
  3. m. 29, marcato only
  4. m. 40, marcato followed by tenuto, over left hand notes marked staccato
  5. m. 53, marcato-staccato-tenuto, all on one note

Practice each one of these different accents separately, making sure to execute them according to the composer’s instructions. (For a similar treatment of syncopated motives, see also “Evening in the Country,” mm. 11, 13, 15–18, 31, 33–38.)

  • Now, pay attention to the various touches of other notes.
  1. mm. 1–4, etc. and the left hand part, staccato almost throughout
  2. mm. 1, 2, 5, etc., tenuto
  3. mm. 52–53 (right hand), portato
  4. mm. 47–54 (left hand), legato
  • Pay close attention to the abundant and detailed dynamics, including hairpins, crescendo and diminuendo indications and, most complex, different dynamic markings for each hand (mm. 11, 29–32).
  • Pay attention to the slight tempo fluctuations (mm. 42–44, 45–47, 52 to the end). Note: poco sostenuto in measure 42 means playing slower right away whereas poco ritard. at the end of the piece means gradually slowing down the last few measures.
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Richard Walters