I am speaking of course of Johannes Brahms and his 21 Ungarische Tänze. Brahms was essentially a Romantic composer, which helps to explain his attraction to the lively themes and movements inherent in traditional Magyar folk songs and csárdás. Equally important is the underlying attraction to the emotions within these folk songs and dances, emotions that epitomize the paradoxes of the Magyar soul (or psyche).
Fundamental among these paradoxes is an incredible capacity for stoicism in the face of suffering and hardship coupled with the carefree and often reckless surrender to joy, particularly when there is seemingly nothing tangible about which to be joyful.
Encountering the Magyar psyche is akin to riding a roller coaster while blindfolded -- long, drawn-out periods of seeming calm and expectation suddenly punctured by exhilarating, dizzying, thrilling and, occasionally, gut-wrenching turns, twists, and plunges.
The Magyar psyche is the sort of psyche that can attend a funeral and a wedding on the same day and embrace the contrasting emotions immanent in both fully and completely. Put another way, the Hungarians can go from melancholy to elation about as quickly as most race cars can go from zero to sixty.
Brahms captures this innate whiplash of emotion with outstanding precision in his Hungarian Dances, the most famous of which are Dance 1 in G Minor - Allegro Molto and Dance 5 in F♯ Minor: Allegro - Vivace (see below).
I love these and all the rest, but if I had to pick my favorite, I would choose Dance 4 in F Minor - Poco sostenuto Vivace because I believe it best reflects my own experience of Hungary and the Magyar soul.