Violinist James Ehnes Explores Bartók's Vibrant Folk Songs

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Decades before World Music became an established category, Béla Bartók was roaming the Eastern European countryside, collecting folk tunes with fellow composer Zoltan Kodaly. He snapped up songs from his native Hungary, but also toted his phonograph on tune-gathering trips to Romania, Slovakia and Turkey. He spent much of 1943 on a research fellowship at Columbia University transcribing Serbo-Croatian folk songs.

As violinist James Ehnes and pianist Andrew Armstrong demonstrate on this new recording, Bartók fashioned some vibrant and colorful arrangements from his folk journeys.

Ehnes has been a familiar face in New York lately; last summer, he performed on a New York Philharmonic broadcast from Van Cortlandt Park and also made a stop for a WQXR Café Concert. He’s been busy in the recording studio too; this wraps a three-part Bartók cycle.

The three sets of folk songs on this recording illustrate how Bartók embraced the tangy exotic modes and wild irregular rhythms of the countryside, which freed him from "the tyranny of major and minor scales," as he put it. Two sets of Hungarian Folks Songs features some jaunty dialogues with the piano and some added effects – pizzicato, harmonics – to make a splash. The Romanian Folk Dances ratchet up the momentum further, particularly in the final “Polka” and the rollicking “Fast Dance.”

The sonatas offer a striking contrast but there's much to admire here too. A Bach-like grandeur underscores the unaccompanied Sonata (1944), written in the in the final months of Bartók's life for Yehudi Menuhin, and yet more traces of Hungarian folk melodies turn up in the Violin Sonata in E minor, written a half-century earlier.

Bartók: Works for Violin and Piano, Vol. 2; Sonatas and Folk Dances
James Ehnes, violin; Andrew Armstrong, piano
Available at

Below: James Ehnes performs in the WQXR Cafe:


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Comments [1]

Nason Baluku

I was delighted to learn about the gift/talent of music that God has bestowed upon you. Thank you so much for taking it up. I am writing on behalf of New Eden Christian Foundation to inquire about the possibility to working with you in reaching the disadvantaged and the vulnerable groups of people, thus women, children, Aged people, people with various physical and mental challenges, orphans, widows, widowers and people infected and affected with HIV/AIDS in Western Uganda. New Eden Christian Foundation (NECF) with its headquarters in Nyamwamba Division, Kasese Municipality, Kasese District in Western Uganda, aims at eradicating poverty through empowering communities with skills and start up capital that can enable them to raise their daily income and contribute to the well being of the environment. The Organization is longing for a New Eden realized in Uganda and beyond.

Area of operation
New Eden Christian Foundation has its major activities in the districts of Kasese, Rubirizi, Kanungu and Rukungiri in Western Uganda.

NECF Vision
A functional and Gender responsive Organization, empowering communities with skills which can enable them achieve improved health in a sound environment.

NECF Mission
To improve livelihoods of communities through a strong Organization that empowers her affiliate groups to efficiently and effectively deliver services in the fields of Environmental Conservation, Agriculture, Education, Micro-finance, Gender, Advocacy, Human Rights and other related services for gender responsive sustainable development.

NECF Objectives
1. To inspire communities to embark on programmes aimed at eliminating ignorance, poverty, diseases and marginalization.
2. Train farmers in sustainable agricultural methods
3. To motivate communities to promote programmes which focus on native and environmental conservation
4. To support activities which recognize and advocate for the rights of the disadvantaged and the vulnerable groups of people, thus women, children, Aged people, people with various physical and mental challenges, orphans, widows, widowers and people infected and affected with HIV/AIDS

Thank you

Rev. Canon Nason Baluku
Executive Director,
New Eden Christian Foundation
And Senior Consultant DSC Consultants (U) LTD
P.O.Box 346, Kasese, Uganda
Mobile: +256 782 309 778

Jul. 29 2014 02:00 AM

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