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The character and arrangement of the piece, written in 1911 for piano solo, seem predestined for this arrangement: Bartók's “barbaric” Allegro, a work of high technical standard and complex harmony, was arranged by Martin Opršál for four hands - however, these do not move over a piano keyboard, but use mallets with which they scurry over five octaves of a marimba. Bartók's idea, which in this piece already gave the piano a percussion-like character through a driving pulse in fast tempo and accentuated articulations, is virtually further developed by this arrangement. Hammering sequences of eighths and jumping motifs can not only be convincingly presented musically on the mallet, but also effectively staged visually.
The work, which interweaves elements from Hungarian folk music with modern harmonies and mixes melodies from peasant tunes with percussive echoes and sought-after dissonances, was intended to be conspicuous, stormy, revolutionary and almost provocative towards its critics. Expressive, characterized by personal maturity, Bartók demands not only a fast tempo but also extreme dynamics in all directions, forming contrasts with motifs and themes and requiring agogic sensitivity. In this way he creates a connection between didactic interest, the highest of musical standards and concertante impression. “Allegro barbaro” – a dance of cultures, the musical development of a composer who is regarded as one of the most important representatives of modernity, and last but not least a dance of mallets that takes place before our eyes and ears.