Piano Street has today published a new urtext edition of the four Ballades by Frédéric Chopin.
The Ballade or Ballad was originally a sung poem, recounting a myth or an historical event. The form, with its connotations of simple folkloric authenticity, became popular in literature with the rise of Romanticism; Chopin is usually credited with originating the genre for the piano.
The first three Ballades are said to have been inspired by poems by Adam Mickiewicz, a Polish poet living in exile in Paris like Chopin himself, although Chopin never confirmed the precise sources or programs for these works.
According to these speculations the first Ballade, for example, is inspired by Mickiewicz’s poem “Konrad Wallenrod”.
The plot described by Wikipedia:
In a preface, Mickiewicz briefly outlines the history of the region to date, describing the interactions among the Lithuanians, Prussians, Pole, and Russians. The following six cantos tell the story of Wallenrod, a fictional Lithuanian pagan captured and reared as a Christian by his people’s long-standing enemies, the Order of Teutonic Knights. He rises to the position of Grand Master, but is awakened to his heritage by a mysterious minstrel singing at an entertainment. He then seeks vengeance by deliberately leading the Knights into a major military defeat. It transpires that Wallenrod has a wife, Aldona, who has been living in seclusion. The Knights discover his treason and sentence him to death; Aldona refuses to flee with him. He then commits suicide.
Other great reading:
“A look inside Chopin’s G minor Ballade, Op. 23” by Beth Levin (lafolia.com)
UNIQUE VIDEO CLIP!
Yuja Wang plays Chopin Ballade no 1 in G minor in her graduation recital on 16 October 2006 at the Curtis Institute of Music: