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Chopin, The Four Ballades

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Chopin, The Four Ballades

Frédéric Chopin's four ballades are single-movement pieces for solo piano, composed between 1831 and 1842. They are considered to be some of the most important and challenging pieces in the standard piano repertoire.[1][2][3]

Though the ballades do not conform exactly to sonata form, the "ballade form" created by Chopin for his four ballades is a variant of sonata form with specific discrepancies, such as the mirror reprise (presenting the two expositional themes in reverse order during the recapitulation).[citation needed] The ballades have directly influenced composers such as Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms who, after Chopin, wrote ballades of their own.[2]

The four ballades have been recorded by many pianists, including Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Dinu Lipatti, Sviatoslav Richter, Martha Argerich, Emanuel Ax, Andrei Gavrilov, Yundi Li, Seong-Jin Cho, Murray Perahia and Krystian Zimerman.[7] The Guardian has described Krystian Zimerman's recording with Deutsche Grammophon as a "key recording".[7]

The Four Ballades have drawn the attention of so many great pianists in so many truly great performances; it's difficult to compile a list of favorites: Rubinstein (RCA), Ashkenazy (London), and Zimerman (DG) are just a few. Kissin's account must now be ranked among the best. In fact, if I had to select one set of the four Ballades, it would be this one. His renditions of the First and Third are hands-down winners. Where Zimerman can be so moving yet so frustrating in his sometimes quirky interpretive mannerisms (try the Third Ballade, beginning at 4:40, where he plays the climactic emotional outpouring with a curiously deadening softness at the outset), Kissin doesn't disappoint, owing to his innate sense for drama and flow, and to his intelligent phrasing. In fact, he not only never misses the interpretive boat in these four works, but rarely is he ever less than utterly convincing throughout. His tempos, for instance, always seem so right, so perfect, yet without ever sounding middle-of-the-road, and nothing in any performance ever even hints at the neutralizing air of calculation or nonchalance.

Ballade No. 3 in A-flat Major, Op. 47 (published in 1841) unfolds in a symmetrical arch structure (ABCBA, followed by a coda), and is the sunniest of the four Ballades. The second theme springs to life as a charming and carefree dance.

Frédéric Chopin's ballades are four one-movement pieces for solo piano. He composed them between 1835 and 1842. The four ballades are said to have been inspired by Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz.[1][2] The exact inspiration for each individual ballade, however, is unclear and not agreed upon.

Ballades were composed before Chopin, in literature and Italian Renaissance music. But, Chopin invented the ballade as an abstract musical form. The ballade is a distinct form and cannot be placed into another form (e.g. sonata). After Chopin, other composers such as Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms also wrote ballades.[1]

The ballades are thought to be the best of Chopin's compositions and of romantic music. The ballades are difficult for pianists to play, even after they learn the technical difficulty of the notes. There are still the creative expressions to be mastered.[1]

All four ballades are from 8 to 12 minutes in length. They are in triple time (three beats to a bar), or in 6/4 or 6/8 time. Each is an individual work and should not be played as a group in a concert. Even Chopin did not do this. He wanted listeners to find their own interpretation of the music. Each piece has its own poetry, drama and story.[1]

The four Ballades of Chopin occupy a unique position within his output and in the repertory of keyboard music. Although Chopin was not the only composer to utilize the form, he is credited as being the first to adapt the ballade to the piano. His efforts resulted in the creation of a unique type of single-movement piano piece characterized by an inherent narrative quality.

The Russian pianist has won praise for her immaculate technique and abundant musicality, qualities in evidence on this captivating performance. This recording couples the four Ballades, a cross between the miniature and the sonata, with the four Impromptus Chopin composed at different periods of his life, between 1835 and 1842.

This is the third release on DG of Chopin by South Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho and his sixth to date for that company). It's a very satisfying coupling of the four Chopin Scherzos with the Second Concerto, for which he is joined by the London Symphony Orchestra under their Principal Guest Conductor, Gianandrea Noseda, thus preserving on disc a collaboration that has worked well in the concert hall over the past several years. This particular disc follows on from Cho's recording of the First Concerto coupled with the Four Ballades. This is a disc of greatest beauty, showcasing a pianist with a maturity way beyond his years.

None of Chopin's four Scherzi corresponds to the traditional meaning of "joke": they are substantive statements, none more so than the second, in B flat minor where the sheer granseur of the opening finds its balance in Cho's later pianissimi and gloriously pearly touch in the more lyrical sections:

The term ballade is the French and German spelling of the English word "ballad" and the Italian ballata. Although each of these terms is derived from the Latin ballare, meaning "to dance," each denotes an entirely different meaning. The synonomous usage of these terms is definitely misleading (1,p. 67),Frederic Chopin, 1810-1849, was first to use this term as a title for piano compositions. The purpose of this study is to reveal the formal characteristics of each of the four ballades that Chopin wrote for solo piano and to determine,through a comparison of the similarities and differences, some identifying characteristics of a ballade. These characteristics will be illustrated through a formal analysis of each ballade. 59ce067264


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