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Brahms, Tempo and the Gypsies. Incorporating Brahms’ Hungarian Dances into Classroom Music. What we know about Brahms. German Composer One of the famous “Three B’s” Adored the musical genius of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven Wrote in Classical Style with Romantic Elements

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brahms tempo and the gypsies

Brahms, Tempo and the Gypsies

Incorporating Brahms’ Hungarian Dances into Classroom Music

what we know about brahms
What we know about Brahms
  • German Composer
  • One of the famous “Three B’s”
  • Adored the musical genius of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven
  • Wrote in Classical Style with Romantic Elements
  • Was heavily influenced by the Hungarian Gypsy music—especially after meeting violinists Remenyi and Joseph Joachim.
  • Developed a deep friendship with Johann Strauss, Jr.
  • Became very close with Robert and Clara Schumann.
  • Was fond of folk music—especially Gypsy-style and incorporated this into his writing.
what you may not know about brahms
What you may NOT know about Brahms
  • Brahms loved to walk and enjoyed spending time in the open air, where he said he could think more clearly. He was known to often bring penny candy with him to hand out to children on his walks.
  • Brahms made musical history when in 1889, he made an experimental recording of his first Hungarian Dance, on the piano. Produced by a representative of American inventor Thomas Edison, this remains the earliest recording by a major composer. In this recording, the piano playing is not very clear, but Brahms’ voice in his greeting is quite audible!
hungarian dance no 1 in g minor

Hungarian Dance no. 1 in g minor, originally written for piano, but orchestrated Dvorak, was first recorded by Brahms himself in 1889. It is written for 3 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 French horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, percussion (1), strings.

Hungarian Dance No. 1 in g minor
hungarian dance no 5 in g minor

Hungarian Dance no. 5 in f sharp minor (g minor in orchestral form) is the most famous of all these dance melodies and was orchestrated by Parlow.

  • It is based on a violin tune, with heavy brass in the background, percussion in the middle section and a finale back to the original violin theme.
Hungarian Dance No. 5 in g minor
hungarian dance no 6 in d major

Hungarian Dance no. 6 in D flat major (D major for orchestra)has a very changeable character, between lyrical song-like passages and fast moving percussive sections.

Hungarian Dance No. 6 in D major
hungarian dance no 16

Hungarian Dance no. 16 in f minoris one of the only few of this set that is an original orchestration. Perhaps a little less known and performed than the others mentioned,Brahms himself changed this from a piano version to an orchestral piece! This piece has much contrast again between these slower melodies in the winds and strings and the bouncy dances that are faster and more lively.

Hungarian Dance No. 16
teaching the concept of tempo through the dances
Teaching the Concept of Tempo through the Dances


How can students understand how INTERESTING changes in Tempo are to Music?

What would music be like without it?

questions to get those musical brains thinking
Questions to Get Those Musical Brains Thinking:

Does it change the mood of the music? Why or why not?

Why would a composer change the tempo in the middle of a piece of music?

Why would Brahms change the speed of the music, specifically?

Do they think the music would sound better or worse without the tempo changes?

teaching ideas
Teaching Ideas

Bean Bag Game

  • Listen to any or all of the Hungarian Dances listed.
  • Invite students to form a circle and pass a bean bag (or other soft item) around the circle to the beat of the music as you play the work. You may want to break students into small groups.
  • OPTION (this might be fun without it!) Explain to them that there will be many changes and if the music stops, the person who has the ball in their hand, must hold it until the music continues.
  • As they pass the object from hand to hand, students should respond to the tempo changes in the work.
  • Invite them to show these other changes as well in the ways they choose to pass the
  • object (the nature of the gestures they use). For example, dynamics, rhythm, etc.
teaching ideas11
Teaching Ideas

An Artist’s Perspective

  • Next have the students listen to the work again. This time, have them write down a story or event that the music is portraying. What kind of mood does the music set and how does the speed of the music affect it?
  • Use a listening grid.
  • Invite students to work in small groups to share their ideas and develop movements that show the ways the music changes.
  • Encourage students to perhaps use visual images before their dance, describing the scene before they perform, for example. Is there a chase involved? Is there a specific event that triggers certain emotions? Are there certain animals or characters involved?
  • Focus on TEAMWORK—not individual dances and stories.
  • After performances, have students share thoughts and inspiration?
  • Would it have been easier if the music all stayed the same speed?
  • Did it make the performances more interesting?
brahms listening grid
Brahms Listening Grid

Hungarian Dance # ______

Johannes Brahms

feel free to contact us at
Feel free to contact us at:
  • Kathleen Krull
  • Debbie Shearin