I talk a lot about subject integration here on the blog, and it is a major part of my music curriculum. I believe classical music studied in isolation is way too abstract for young children, and subject integration can be your secret weapon when it comes to making music appreciation meaningful to your kids.
This is the fifth post in a ten-part series designed to show you how to take a piece of great classical music and use it as a gateway into other subjects. (Find previous posts on the Hebrides Overture, William Tell Overture, The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, and Clair de Lune.)
Hopefully, by the time school starts next year, I will have tipped your thinking toward how you can incorporate music appreciation into everything else you are doing. Music appreciation will easily slip in and out of your lesson plans and your home will be filled with great music that has stood the test of time.
Today we meet a German composer who accidentally stole a Hungarian melody…
Hungarian Dance No.5
Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg, Germany. He got his start playing music in some pretty unsavory establishments down by the trading docks. The story goes that he was so talented, he could prop a book up on the piano and get lots of reading done while playing for the customers.
A chance encounter with a famous Hungarian violinist afforded Johannes the opportunity to break free from his dead-end music job. Brahms was invited to go on tour with the violinist as his accompanist. Good-bye Hamburg, hello world!
So here’s a question: what kind of native folk tunes might a Hungarian violinist play while touring Europe?
Hungarian tunes, yes! Well done.
So the famous violinist guy would play all kinds of native tunes in his concerts, and Brahms naturally learned these tunes backwards and forwards. The tunes cemented themselves into Brahms’ musical conscience, and he incorporated many of them when he later composed his highly successful series of Hungarian dances.
What he did not know was that all those tunes had actual composers. They weren’t just local folk tunes. So some of Brahms’ most famous music, including our feature piece today, isn’t fully original.
Nevertheless, they are fun for listening and perfect for dancing. What, you don’t regularly engage in Hungarian dancing around your house? It’s time you begin!
Crank it up, and get yo dancin’ shoes:
Subject Integration: Hungarian Dance No. 5
Now we take Brahms’ famous tune and venture to all kinds of different places to make learning come alive for your kids. The obvious choice here is learning about the less familiar country of Hungary. See what peaks your child’s interest and dive in!
- Find Hungary on a map.
- Notice that Hungary is a land-locked country that shares a border with seven other countries. Older children can explore the map to name them (answer key: Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria.)
HUNGARIAN CULTURE AND FAMOUS FIGURES
- Create a Hungarian flag. Compare it to the Italian flag for a simple lesson in horizontal vs. vertical for pre-school/early education.
- Hungarian native Erik Weisz was born in Budapest in 1874. His Jewish parents moved to America when he was a young boy. Perhaps you know him as this guy. Kids can learn more about this famous Hungarian here.
- Head here to learn about another famous Hungarian and what he invented!