Hungarian Rondo

By Zoltan Kodaly
Composed in 1917

Kodály, together with Bartok, was a major figure in the collection and analysis of Hungarian folk music.

Many of Kodály’s compositions are based on Hungarian folk tunes of various types. This is evident in the “Hungarian Rondo,” which Kodály wrote in 1917 and premiered in Vienna in early 1918. Originally titled “Old Hungarian Soldiers’ Songs,” its themes are based on the verbunkós, a type of army recruiting dance which utilized gypsy bands (symbolized here by strings, supplemented with raucous clarinets and bassoons).

The verbunkós typically had alternating slow-fast sections, with punctuating codas. In the Hungarian Rondo, Kodály follows through on this tradition by interspersing the opening slow string theme, in different instrumentations (solo violin, clarinet, mixed ensembles), with increasingly frenetic gypsy melodies.