Hungarian Dance No.5 Arr. Merle J Isaac (mm77-81)

Not too sure what the markings from 77-81 and 83-87 are asking for, my instructor thought some sort of pedal marking but we weren’t really sure what it was specifically asking for, and we don’t have a name for the symbol.

  • I'm waiting for someone to know for sure, but I can offer a few contextualizing observations. This passage, in the original orchestral version, is usually played with an extreme crescendo over the course of each individual chord—usually an "exponential crescendo," growing mostly in the last moments of the note. Of course, a piano has limited ability to mimic this; the way it rolls the chord will have a lot to do with it. In the orchestral version, the chords are homophonic; all voices, including the bass, play throughout the measure. Based on this, I'm guessing pedaling is intended... Mar 28 at 18:28
  • ... and you'd have to pedal to keep the bass notes sustaining into the second beat. I've never seen something like the "down-turned" end of the bracket, but performatively, one would want to release the pedal quite abruptly; maybe this reflects that in some way. Mar 28 at 18:29
  • 2
    @AndyBonner Original orchestral version? The original was for piano solo (although the tune itself of n. 5 wasn't by Brahms) and the chords weren't arpeggios. In addition, Brahms didn't orchestrate n.5 himself according to Wiki
    – DjinTonic
    Mar 28 at 20:05
  • @DjinTonic The originals were for piano duet. Brahms later arranged 10 of them for piano solo.
    – Aaron
    Mar 29 at 0:15
  • 1
    @Aaron Yes, the first published version was for piano duet, but according to Jan Swafford's biography he had been playing them for years for friends and gave Clara Schumann some manuscripts. "Finally, in hopes of good return, he did write down some dances, setting them for four hands to get the orchestral effects he wanted."
    – DjinTonic
    Mar 29 at 0:33

2 Answers 2


It's a pedal marking. Pedal goes down when the line goes down toward the diagonal line; pedal goes up when the line goes down away from the diagonal line. The line being diagonal has no special meaning aside from showing the duration of the sustain.

In this specific case, the goal is to sustain the low octaves while moving the left hand up to play the arpeggiated chord, but then release the pedal to accommodate the rest at the end of each measure.

Regarding the crescendo: the crescendo can be achieved while rolling through the chord.

  • 2
    Another instance of this style of pedal marking may be found at dolmetsch.com/musicalsymbols.htm (toward the bottom of the page). I didn't find a good online resource describing its use or history, nor the reason for using a diagonal line, but I imagine that the standard books on modern notation will at least mention it.
    – phoog
    Mar 28 at 20:18

He's probably thinking of the "cimbalom", basically a piano without a keyboard, Plucked like a guitar there is an AMAZING effect, where the player runs his finger to and fro along the whole range of strings, since the strings aren't "damped" they all sound at once, an AMAZING effect that makes your hair stand on end. Gypsy players would use this effect on an occasional off-beat. It is OBVIOUSLY what Brahms was thinking of in his G-minor Dance on the 2cd. quaver of the 4th. bar where he marks an accent which I've never heard anyone observe.

  • I've had another look: the arrangement by Brahms' friend Joachim puts a crescendo on a minim (!) in the 3rd. bar.
    – user88522
    Sep 13 at 1:18
  • One last thought: at 90 years of age I knew a Hungarian "gypsy" band personally. "Gypsy" was a euphemism for JEWISH, who were in demand for Christian weddings where Jews were forbidden. What today we would probably call "Klezmer".; wonderful stuff!
    – user88522
    Sep 13 at 1:29
  • Back again: I'm getting stupid in my old age. Correction: the cembalom is of course played with soft-head DRUMSTICKS, not normally plucked.
    – user88522
    Sep 13 at 1:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.