Zoltan Kodaly - Dances of Galanta

Solos video

Kodaly was supremely interested in folk music, and wrote this not-quite-tone-poem not-quite-suite based on folk dances from the town and environs of Galanta in what is now Slovakia. He said he based much of the music on an older publication of Roma (formerly derogatorily called Gypsy) music.

The clarinet features prominently through out, but especially at the beginning (on nearly every audition) and the end (on most auditions). The 'cello and horn call that opens the piece is repeated by several instruments and sections until most of the orchestra is calling the audience to attention when the clarinet joins the tutti in measure 31. Be fanfare-like and rhythmic, with a slight exaggeration of the rhythm. The solo really begins on your F-sharp trill. As with much of the piece as a whole, there are MANY different ways to play this solo in a thrilling and authentic manner. I like to approach it with as much knowledge of the native music of central Europe, Hungary, Slovakia, the Roma, and Verbunkos as I can. Research the style.

Begin your F-sharp trills slowly, speed up, and slow down until you match the tempo of the 32nd-notes to follow, and move into them without stopping. Continue slowing and softening slightly as you descend to the low E-flat, stretch it a bit, then accelerate and cresc. up the run to a short high B-flat. Breathe here, and imitate the same shape in the next two bars with the exception that at the end of the run you move only into the tempo of measure 37. The next 7 measures are tutti. Stringendo with the orchestra, or alone in the audition, and hold the high E-flat longer than it should be. This is a huge climax. In the orchestra, you can breathe anywhere you want in m. 37-43, but in an audition, you should probably breathe no more than twice, and after the double-dotted quarter-notes. Hold the E-flat ff after the orchestra has cut off, and come out of it with a little dim. before moving to the C, accelerating and crescendoing all the way to the low G, like a diver tucking under and diving towards the water, accelerating along the way. Hit the low G very deeply and strongly, diminuendoing to neinte as only a clarinet can. You now have the audience in the palm of your hand.

Often the beginning of the cadenza (up to the trill) is played as one big accel. I really hate this, because it's three gestures, not one. Kodaly has nicely shown them to us with articulation. Play the first gesture as if searching for something. Undulate with your dynamics and tempo. The second gesture should accelerate and cresc., and the third pull back but continue the cresc. Start the trill slowly and get very fast. Hold the resolution on the A, and linger on the accented high D, thereby emphasizing it with rubato as well as volume. Fade the long D as you did the low G - take your time.

Grab a big breath, and play a rhapsodically-rubatoed run into the tune at 50. You'll have to play fairly strongly in the orchestra, but you can play a real, haunting p in an audition. This song is usually played too slow in the orchestra. Adhere to Kodaly's tempo marking at an audition unless you know for sure that that orchestra always plays it in a different tempo. Use rubato in the orchestra, but be strictly in time at an audition. Be careful not to play the sixteenth-notes too quickly. Always accent the first sixteenth-note as indicated - this is a reflection of the Hungarian language and whatever words may have gone with this tune. Plan different places for breaths, so you can make choices as needed when playing. I prefer not to breathe between the double-dotted-quarters and the dotted-quarters that follow them. Instead, I like to make sudden contrast between them where the first is part of a stern gesture (DAH-daaaah), and the second is a tender, intimate color at a lower dynamic which I cresc. from. I will vary this pairing with the overall shape of the whole solo, being more intense at times and less at others (like measure 62).

Make a fairly steady cresc. that grows in intensity as you head towards the climax of this theme on the high D in measure 57. Then sigh-dim. as you descend the octave. After a large breath, play the next measure mp. Make a lot of color change and dim. on the final note of 59, slip-sliding into a suave G in 60. As you play the final dim. of this section, gradually drain the emotion with the volume, ending very soft and calm. You may slow down a lot in the orchestra, depending on the conductor, but keep it to a minimum, or not at all, in an audition.

The coda solo starts in measure 571, where you take over for the oboe. Sneak in on the note you two share and grow to a solo tone quickly. Use micro-rubato to recall the spirit of the Roma and the freedom of your opening solos and cadenza. I prefer doing this solo with only one breath, a giant one after the final C-sharp trill in bar 576 - you have time to make a dramatic pause there. If you need more, a good place is to catch a very short one before the first C-sharp trill in bar 573, though you may need to slow down the preceding sixteenth-notes more to make the pause musically justified and natural sounding. Play the first trill like you did at the beginning of the piece, but don't take as long or slow down at the end of it. Do less rubato as you do more accel. and play the last trill a little longer than marked. After your giant breath, start pesante and f, giving each of the first three notes a little pulse, with each one getting less so as you accelerate downward. Don't change speed abruptly when the rhythmic value gets shorter - I think this is a notation issue. The run should be gestural and without dim. Slow down towards the end of it, sliding into the high trills, which should and all start with a few slower notes. Diminuendo dramatically as you ritardando getting very soft. Some conductors/orchestras like to get very slow here, so have air to spare!

A subito sff starts the final Czardas-like race to the end. Though tutti, this is often on auditions just so the committee can see who can double-tongue or who is a freak of nature. This is often as fast as 168 or more. If you cannot tongue that fast, throw in lots of two-note slurs and tongue any notes you can. If you have a fairly fast tongue slow it down a bit and articulate as marked, but don't play slower than 144. Be prepared for the committee to ask you to change tempo if they want to hear it a different way.