Czardas or when music means emotions and not sounds

The Czardas (Csárdás in Hungarian) is e piece of music which always fascinated me with its tempo variations and emotional power.

I first heard it when I was a child. It was frequently played by the gypsy music bands at village weddings. I know it by heart and I can reproduce vocally but I am unable to play it with any instrument, unfortunately.

As a child I was impressed with the band members’ technique and talent. I thought it must be something magic to be able to create such sounds and movements at an incredible speed of moving fingers and forcing the limits of playing high and low notes, simply and beautifully.

A true artist should always be able to make the audience understand that a technical difficulty looks like the easiest thing on earth.

Years after I saw a Csárdás sheet music in our violin schoolbook, as an example of combining the minor and major tonalities, which define a musical composition. What I recall from my music classes is that the music written in a major tonality is clear, open, fulsome, while the music written in a minor tonality is soft and melancholic.


Image: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Czardas dancers (Source)

The Czardas is a versatile music masterpiece which combines the two tonalities. The combination requires excellent performing skills. Therefore, the performance could be a serious challenge for beginners.

I have been familiar with a number of csárdás elements, which inspired composers like Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Johann Strauss, Pablo de Sarasate, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and many others. A famous example of transposing the csárdás dance into a song is the Rosalinde aria from “Die Fledermaus” (The Bat), by Strauss.

But the csárdás as such rose to fame through Vittorio Monti’s composition for violin and piano. Monti’s piece is built on seven tempo variations, perfectly harmonised.

I looked on Youtube and checked several csárdás interpretations and I was surprised to find it performed by piano, flute, clarinet, horn, trumpet, trombone, timpani, harp players, in addition to violinists and cellists.

There are three artists with noteworthy performances:

  1. Luka Šulić, a young Croatian-Slovenian cellist, member of 2Cellos

I must admit that this was for the first time I heard the Csárdás played on cello. Šulić’s performance is remarkable. He simply shows that he is able to make a difficult performance appear the easiest on earth.

  1. David Garrett, a German pop and crossover violinist

This Csárdás version is breath-taking because of the performer’s style, with authentic energy and passion.

  1. Rafael Mendez, a Mexican virtuoso solo trumpeter

This trumpet version is ageless and even it was recorded in 1961 it looks fresh and vivid.

Image: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Czardas dancers (Source)

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