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"Hungarian Suite" for Jazz Chamber Ensemble

Christopher Paul Varga, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Hungarian Suite for Jazz Chamber Ensemble is an original composition in three parts, each part using a separate Hungarian folk melody as its source. Written for a maximum instrumentation of 13 players, the suite employs a four-piece rhythm section paired with three reeds, three brass, and three strings. The folk melodies are from a collection of studio recordings made under the supervision of Bela Bartok in the 1930s, notable for not being field recordings and as such exhibiting a higher quality of sound. Although crude copies of Bartok’s highly detailed transcriptions of selected melodies are included in the liner notes to the album, I did not refer to them. In addition to a practical desire to work from written transcriptions that were akin to a jazz style “lead sheet”, by personally transcribing the material I became much more familiar with the melodies, therefore providing a more organic compositional process. A varied approach to instrumentation, musical devices, and compositional methodology was employed for each movement. The manner and degree to which the folk melodies retain their original pitch collection, rhythm, and embellishments was consciously manipulated in order to create contrast between the three parts. In part one, O Love, O Love, the relationship to the original melody is most distant. I used distinctive musical elements, e.g., specific intervals or characteristic motives, as sources for entirely new melodies, resulting in an obscure resemblance between the folk song and my composed music. In part two, The Cemetery’s Gate, the similarity between the original melody and my adaptation is most overt, in that I arranged the initial presentation of the melody in a rubato fashion and with sparse and simple accompaniment. In part three, Beautiful is the Spring, the transformation is perhaps the most complex. I retained the pitch content and general pacing of the original but placed it in a specific meter (7/4) and groove (triplet-based). While I did not use the lyrics as a guide to shape the musical content, I believe the music shares some of the same bittersweet and melancholy qualities as the texts.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Varga, Christopher Paul, ""Hungarian Suite" for Jazz Chamber Ensemble" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3737773.