Piano Street Magazine

The Four Ballades by Chopin – New Urtext Edition

July 7th, 2010 in Piano Street Site News by | 3 comments

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.

Read more:
Chopin’s Polish ballade: op. 38 as narrative of national martyrdom, by Jonathan Bellman

Other great reading:
“A look inside Chopin’s G minor Ballade, Op. 23” by Beth Levin (lafolia.com)

Yuja Wang plays Chopin Ballade no 1 in G minor in her graduation recital on 16 October 2006 at the Curtis Institute of Music:


  • JohnnnyD says:

    NO ONE plays Chopin like Artur Rubenstein. Understand this: he was the greatest at capturing the feeling, rhythm and sounds of Chopin. I’ve listened to many renditions of Ballade No. 1 and after hearing Rubenstein I’ve realized that no one else understands how to play it. Yes, others have fast fingers but it’s about rhythm and a soft touch of the keys.

  • Roberto Brambilla says:

    May be that Rubinstein is the best in capturing the ‘polish’ character of Chopin’s many compositions, but in the case of Ballades is the visionary and ‘cubist’ approach of Cortot that had revealed the infinite potentialities of these pieces. The young pianists looking for a renewed interpretation of these pieces are very interested in this old experiments, where more than rythm and touch, is a unitary global new idea of a piece to be pursued. The problem of fidelity to what Chopin wanted, is a misleading one.

  • deighve stjon says:

    In this recording, I think Kissin gave Chopin an extremely good rendition. His playing evokes Chopin. There is so much emotion transmitted despite the internet transfer.

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