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Ballade in G minor, Op. 23 In the previous post we discussed an all-time Chopin favorite, the Nocturne in E-flat, Op. 9, No. 2. What then, is left to say about another Chopin classic – this Ballade in G minor?Plenty, it would appear. There’s an extremely technical description in the La Folia online music reveiew by Beth Levin:

…..A rhythm of 6/4 suggests an underlying waltz, as does the set of chords that plays off each melody note. Further, the chords lie under portamento slurs which give them shape, gently tug at the second and third beats, and increase the inherent dance quality. However, a waltz in G minor is colored by the key and therefore imbued with a tender poignancy. One dances, but with a heavy heart….

Then there’s an entire dissertation by a Swedish graduate student. Here’s his abstract:

The purpose of this work is to make a general presentation of Chopin, the age in which he lived, his G minor Ballade and selected editions of the Ballade. I will also compare five recordings of the G minor Ballade, and make a presentation and a recording of my own interpretation of the G minor Ballade. This work discusses his life up to the time the Ballade was published, Chopin’s development as a composer, and the period in his life when the Ballade was composed. Background material on the history of the Ballade as a genre and its development is included to give the reader an enhanced contextual understanding. The issue as to whether Chopin had a literary model when composing the G minor Ballade and his relationship with the Polish writer Adam Mickiewicz is discussed. This work considers the issue of form in the G minor Ballade, Chopin’s personality, how Chopin played, his use ofthe term ‘tempo rubato’, and how he used improvisation and composition.

Make what you will of this interpretation of an Arturo Benedetti Michalangeli fansite:

Miracle seems really a shortfall, rather than a longfall, when it is applied with Michelangeli’s Chopin (especially the Ballade in G minor, op. 23; Deutsche Grammophon 413 449-2): water seem to be loosing ground against the lack of distance. With proper distance however, there is a possibility the water might fall with greater flow and maturity. Michelangeli drive for that aim is to have more miracle and less than a human spirit is ultimately tested against the harsh background where one finds a waterfall equipped with sophisticated break-system.

Chopin primarily conceived the Work to be played out amongst the adult fellowship society of his peers nonetheless amounting to no fewer than the very composer himself as the sole guest. Chopin somehow wanted the work to be played by grownups; yet he himself when he conceived all this was a child. His excess employment of piano’s sustaining pedal is no justification for the larger framework thereof. He might have been using the principle to get beyond the fantastic element in the piano: he incorporated it into the Work very stylishly that the importance of the pedal desists when it is fused into the work as a whole. Sophistication still is called for. It is up to the individual pianist to start where it gains ground and appears appropriate to begin constructing the superstructure.

Last word goes to Arthur Greene:

The G minor Ballade, if I play it correctly, should need no introduction.

Listen to Arthur Greene’s performance of the Chopin Ballade in G minor, Op. 23

View and download the sheet music here.

Want more? Deeper into the Web we go. How about this “Interpretation of the Narrative Grammar of Chopin’s Ballade in G minor?”

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