Bartók: ‘Bear Dance’

Vikárius, László (2008) Bartók: ‘Bear Dance’. Studia Musicologica, 49 (3-4). pp. 341-367. ISSN 1788-6244

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‘Bear Dance’ (German ‘Bärentanz’) appears to have been a lesser-known nineteenth-century character piece exemplified by Schumann’s two related compositions in A minor, Twelve Pieces for Four Hands , op. 85, no. 2 and its early version, for piano solo, composed for the Album for the Young but left unpublished, as well as Mendelssohn’s F-major occasional piece. These pieces are all characterized by a very low ostinato-like tone-repetition in the base (recalling the clumsy movements of the bear in Schumann’s pieces while imitating the leader’s drumming in Mendelssohn’s) and a melody in high register in imitation of the leader’s pipe tune. Bartók must have had this particular genre in mind when composing his closing piece for the Ten Easy Piano Pieces (1908), herald of later fast ‘ostinato’ movements, in which the amusing topic, a market place event, is turned into something wild and eerie. The composition and publication history of the piece is reinvestigated on the basis of documents, letters and compositional manuscripts, partly unpublished so far. ‘Bear Dance’ is closely related to the compositions, such as Bagatelles nos. 13 and 14, resulting from the composer’s personal crisis in 1908, due to his unrequited love to the violinist Stefi Geyer, and it also uses a version of the leitmotiv generally named after Geyer by theorists. The employment of characteristics derived from folk music ( kanásztánc [herdsman’s dance] or kolomeika rhythm, strophic structure, etc.) is analyzed as well as the composer’s modernist preference for harmonies integrating minor second/major seventh clash and large-scale tritonal tensions. Bartók’s encounter with a special (but distinctly different) musical type accompanying ritual peasant dances in Romanian villages of Transylvania is also briefly discussed as one of his arrangements of a violin piece, the second movement of the Sonatina for piano (1915) was also entitled as ‘Bear Dance’.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music / zene, szövegkönyvek, kották > M1 Music / zene
M Music and Books on Music / zene, szövegkönyvek, kották > M1 Music / zene > M10 Theory and philosophy of music / zeneelmélet, muzikológia
Depositing User: Endre Sarvay
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2017 15:14
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2017 15:14

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