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Hungarian Dances No. 1,3,10 (1869)

Hungarian Dances No. 5,6,7* (1869)

*Orch. by Martin Schmeling

Notes by Michael-Thomas Foumai


In 1869, Johannes Brahms published the first set of his Hungarian Dances. Following the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Emperor Franz Joseph I (House of Hapsburg) instituted marshal law, stripping Hungarian sovereignty and ruling with absolute authority for 18 years. The assimilation of Hungarian culture commenced with adopting German as the official administrative language. State-controlled education reform mandated a biased Hapsburg curriculum with institutions staffed by non-Hungarian faculty. In 1867, the Austro-Hungarian Compromise ended the military dictatorship, establishing the Kingdom of Hungary as a dual monarchy.


By 1869, Kamehameha V (Lot) had reigned over the Kingdom of Hawai'i for five years. Through the 1860s, the King revived traditional practices. Princess Liliʻuokalani composed He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian National Anthem) at the King's request in 1866. "Each nation, he said (Kamehameha V), but ours had its statement of patriotism and love of country in its own music; but we were using for that purpose on state occasions the time-honored British anthem, "God save the Queen," writes Liliʻuokalani. "This he desired me to supplant by one of my own compositions. In one week's time, I notified the King that I had completed my task."



As a contemporary of Liszt, the younger German composer Johannes Brahms owes much success to the music of Hungary. His four books of 21 Hungarian Dances, the product of a friendship with Hungarian-violinist Ede Reményi dating back to 1850, is considered the composer's most popular and lucrative output. Reményi introduced the composer to Hungarian folk music, and Brahms became his touring accompanist. Published in 1869 and 1880 in their original form for piano four-hands, authorship of the themes has gradually been traced to their respective Hungarian composers, with dances 11,14, and 16 considered authentic Brahms originals. All of the dances have since been arranged for orchestra, with 1,3, and 10 by the composer, melding the infectious rhythms and melodies of the Czárdás dance with the might of the Romantic symphony orchestra.


Beyond the Music: Like the fruitful collaboration of Reményi and Brahms, the partnership between bandmaster Henri Berger and then Colonel David Kalākaua produced the new national anthem replacing Liliʻuokalani's "He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi." In Kona, Kalākaua composed lyrics for the "Hymn to Kamehameha" for Kamehameha Day in 1872. It is posited Berger adapted the music to fit Kalākaua's lyrics. Set to a variation of the Prussian anthem "Heil Dir im Siegerkranz," it became "Hawaiʻi Ponoʻi."


The Honolulu Symphony Society first performed the Hungarian Dances in 1903, the club organization just two years old. The three dances Brahms orchestrated run seven minutes and call for three flutes, piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, timpani, triangle, bass drum, cymbals, and strings. The three dances, orchestrated by Martin Schmeling, run nine minutes and call for three flutes, piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, and strings.


Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg, Germany, on May 7, 1833, and died in Vienna, Austria, on April 3, 1897.

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