As we all know, Liszt's 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies contain and conserve some Hungarian and Gipsy tunes (although some of them are in a somewhat modified form). I'd like to know if there's any resource for knowing what exactly they are (I'd like to get information about as many of the Rhapsodies as possible, but my personal preferences include the 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 15th one). In particular, I'm wondering:

  • if these tunes/melodies have a title at all (my sad first guess would be no because they're folkloric);
  • If so what the titles are;
  • And if not, where could I find them, either in written form (notes) or in some kind of digital media?

2 Answers 2


Bela Bartok was an Ethnomusicologist too.. he was known to have collected some gypsy songs, for example:


If you are searching for a book on this subject, Bela Bartok's Studies in Ethnomusicology seems to be interesting:

The biggest problem with the folk tunes is that they are not using the standard european tuning. Bela Bartok has transposed some tunes for the piano. If you are not using the well-known tuning, it is pretty hard to write the notes down for a tune.

  • Thanks! I'll have a look at Bartók's book. As for the transposition, I'm Hungarian and I'm pretty comfortable with writing down folk tunes.
    – H2CO3
    Oct 14, 2012 at 5:09
  • YouTube link is dead.
    – Aaron
    Sep 21, 2020 at 7:39

In his article Hungarian Peasant Music, Béla Bartók writes:1

Among the melodies employed by Liszt in his Hungarian Rhapsodies, and by Brahms in his Hungarian Dances, there are scarcely four or five genuine peasant melodies, and even these appear in a much distorted, "Gypsy-like" form. All the remainder are art- melodies in folk-music style. For the programs of the Gypsy musicians are made up chiefly of such melodies, sparsely interspersed with real peasant tunes; these musicians adapt both sorts of melodies to their own taste. For instance, they imported the step of an augmented second (with which we are familiar in the so-called "Hungarian scale," but which is never found in the Hungarian peasant melodies) from the melodies) from the Balkans, or still further away, into the Hungarian art-music in folk-music style.2

Further on, Bartók gives two examples.

T:From "Hungarian Peasant Music" by Béla Bartók
T:Example 11
GGgg | ga g2 | f2 fg"//"x | aaag | de f2 | d2 dd"//"x | gccc | cd c2 | B2 Bc"//"x | dddc | GA B2 | G2 GG || &
T:Example 12
cBcd | e2 d2 | gg f2"//"x | cBcd | e2 d2 | cc B2"//"x | GAGF | G2 F2 | dc B2"//"x | GAGF | G2 c2 | GG G2 ||

These two airs were utilized in Liszt's Thirteenth Hungarian Rhapsody; No. 11 is the first theme of the Allegro section, much distorted by graces and figurations in Gypsy style. (On closer scrutiny of these figurations it is evident that their origin can be traced to the West-European art-music of the eighteenth century.) No. 12 is the second theme of the Allegro section; in the Liszt melody, the close, in particular, shows a deviation from the original peasant form; it closes a third lower than our example.3

On the other hand, in "A study of Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies"4, Dana Charlene Francey writes:

The second chapter of the thesis will describe the relationship of the Hungarian Rhapsodies with the original collections of Hungarian folk tunes on which they are based (Macwar Dallok and Macwar Rhapszodiák pieces), and subsequently will use the relationship with this pre-existing material as the foundation for grouping them into categories, e.g., Hungarian Rhapsody Nos. 1-2 (based on folk tunes not found in the Magyar collection); Hungarian Rhapsody Nos. 3-15 (based on folk tunes found in the Magyar collection); Hungarian Rhapsody Nos. 16-18 (not based on any pre—existing material —- all original works); and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 19 (based entirely on Csárdás nobles by Abrányi, an Hungarian composer).5

The dissertation gives an extensive analysis of the source material for the Hungarian Rhapsodies.

1Bartók, Béla (trans. Theodore Baker). "Hungarian Peasant Music." The Musical Quarterly 19, no. 3 (1933): 267-87. Accessed September 21, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/739077.

2Ibid., 267

3Ibid., 277

4Francey, Dana Charlene. 1992. “A Study of Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies.” Retrospective Theses and Dissertations, 1919-2007. T, University of British Columbia. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0086785.

5Ibid., ii

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