Piano Street Magazine

Barenboim on Chopin’s Ballade no. 1

February 23rd, 2017 in Piano News by | 17 comments

Frédéric Chopin is considered the first “pianistic” composer, which means he wrote specifically with pianists in mind. He tailored his music to their artistry and technical wizardry. But, he didn’t always launch into bracing octaves or challenging passagework. For example, in the Ballade No. 1 in G-minor, Chopin teases the audience with a meandering introduction that seems to indicate he didn’t know where he was going. This is in direct contrast to Beethoven, who never meandered anywhere.

Chopin inspires musicians to greater artistry and, as Barenboim says in this video, makes them want to sound as if the music is simply emanating from them as light from a candle. In this ballade, Chopin also takes us on a leisurely stroll through his own private musical world.

Piano score to download and print (PS Urtext):

Chopin Ballade in G minor

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  • Cul-de-sac says:

    ” This is in direct contrast to Beethoven, who never meandered anywhere.”

    Hummm … try Op.77 … but I get your point

  • Boris says:

    This 5 minutes was indeed fascinated .. Bravo! I’d like to hear more!!

    However, I’d like to add a few thoughts that are linked to my Slavic education. Namely, potential relationship of the Chopin’s Ballades and Adam Mickiewicz ballads. They were contemporaries and exiles in Paris, knew one another and carried in their harts Polish spirit expressing it quite differently. This potential relationship of their works is beautifully described by Dorota Zakrzewska in the Polish Music Journal, Vol 2, No 2, 1999 – with plenty citations form the work by Mickiewicz and Chopin’s contemporaries like Schumann. It can be accessed by http://pmc.usc.edu//PMJ/issue/2.1.99/zakrzewska.html.

  • William says:

    I liked the 5 minutes explanation. I play the Ballade No. 1, however I always wondered, and perhaps no one know how F. Chopin really played bar no. 7, that bar before the Moderato (6/4 time) section. I always hear numerous performers play it the way Barenboim played it, notes D, then G, E flat and B flat, however if one studies theory, note B flat in the treble should be played together with note D in the bass, then notes G and E flat. I found only one performer playing it that way. Other performers play it differently too. I bet no one will know exactly how F. Chopin intended it to be played.

  • Ruth says:

    Thank you. I appreciated that explanation and look forward to more. This was my first time on the website – but will check it more often.

  • Earl says:

    This is a fascinating discussion from one of the greats. This ballade is the most beautiful ever written for the piano. It is tender yet forceful. Yes, the intro isn’t technically part of the main melody, and it is never repeated. In this way, it is a true introduction..after it’s performed, it’s not necessary again.

  • Jean-Pierre Cahen says:

    I am enchanted, by this exceptional piano lesson ! Young people starting piano should have this kind of “master” to grow their enthousiasm about wanting to learn more.

  • Einar Vikingur says:

    Thank you, Daniel, that was lovely and clever. I am a hopeless amateur, and my current project (very slow!) is the Great Master’s B flat minor Nocturne. It is my favourite, and I think it is rather neglected and I cannot understand how this can be so. I would be delighted if you gave it an airing in your next five minute segment.

  • Bernard says:

    The piano sound is too hard (especially for Chopin) I’d like to voice it for you.

  • Daniel Baremboim made a surprising mistake in his comment : Ballade (poetic or musical work) and balade (promenade, in French) are not the same word, and the spelling is different. So unfortunately, his explanation about that is not relevant.

  • Beate says:

    Thank you for explaining the character of the opening so well, and playing it so convincingly. Pupils tend to only start to put their soul into the piece from the 6/8 section but the beginning is so important in it soul-searching-ness.
    Please can you explain why Ballade is a ‘walk’ not a story telling word? I always thought it was the latter, or even a poem (as in for example Schiller’s Ballades) in free style however…this is definitely a new angle…!

  • It was very interesting! Thank you, Daniel. Words are much more convincing when they are supported by playing like in this video. I beleive that we, musicians & pianists can pick up “the idea” from just a few phrases or the very sound of the piano.
    I wanted to add that it seems to me, that Chpin’s music gives an artist a very wide range of possible interpreations; emotions & nuances are countless. I remeber reading that Chopin hated when his students tried to imitate him. This infuriated him completely…
    Maybe one of the secrets of Chopin’s music, one of the reasons his music continues to touch hearts of millions until today is a nobility of musical language; whatever story Chopin wants to tell us, his sounds/words are absolutely sincere, noble & aristocratic.

  • Masako says:

    Thank you very much for wonderful precious 5 minitues lecture.
    Ballade No. 1 is one of my favorite.
    I really enjoy the way you speak….it is easy to understand and

  • Michael Smith says:

    A brilliant lesson! Thank you Mr Barenboim, now I’m inspired to learn this masterpiece! Your explanation of the introduction is spot on. Your teaching makes wonderful sence to me. Most enjoyable listening to you playing and teaching!

  • George says:

    Wonderful presentation!!! We have enjoyed many of your performance including The Nines with Chicago. And we were moved by your remarks after the anniversary of your Carnegie debut. Experiencing this short talk and illustration about The First Ballade is confirmation of your commitment of your commitment! Thank you. Judy & GEORGE Diehl Cleveland. Do you remember playing chamber music all night at a house in Cleveland after conducting TCO? The musicians still talk about it!!! Bassist Larry Angell was one of them. He just passed in December at 88.

  • MK Stahl says:

    This is very enjoyable and informative, Thank you!

  • David Evans says:

    What an amazing musician! Thank you Maestro Barenboim.

  • Silvia G. Levrero - von Sanden says:

    Absolutely marvellous! My mother used to play this Ballade when was a child and I never got tired of listening to it! I enjoyed this “lesson” very much indeed and hope to be able to listen to many of them! Muchas gracias Maestro!

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