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The Four Ballades by Chopin – New Urtext Edition

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. Piano Street has published a new urtext edition of the four Ballades by Frédéric Chopin. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Picking a Chopin piece. Suggestions?  (Read 23703 times)
ekirth
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« on: June 21, 2007, 09:27:08 PM »

I recently got some new music (post-exams!)...and I've got to pick a Chopin piece. The choices are among the Chopin ballades (no. 1 or 2 or 4), and the heroic polonaise. Needless to say, I'm very excited.

I've just begun to learn Liszt's La Campanella (first Liszt piece  Smiley). I've played some Chopin etudes (op. 10 n. 5 and op. 25 n. 1), a polonaise, etc. before, as well as Schumann's Papillons, a couple of Rach preludes, some of the Beethoven sonatas, and a Bach English suite. (Hopefully that gives a vague idea of technical level...)

So, the question is: if you had to pick between Chopin's ballade no. 1, no. 2, no. 4, and the heroic polonaise, which would you pick? Why? If you can, disregard the "overplayed" factor.  Wink

Thanks for your help!
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lazlo
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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2007, 09:43:45 PM »

why not listen to these pieces and choose which one you like best...
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thaicheow
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« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2007, 05:38:47 AM »

why not listen to these pieces and choose which one you like best...

I agree. By the way, I wonder how much time you get to prepare the stuff? If for me, I would definitely avoid Ballade no 4 and Polanaise Heroic. They are lovely, but too difficult, at least to me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCSEwfqs-VM
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soliloquy
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« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2007, 08:13:59 AM »

Ballade No. 2


Have you looked at the Barcarolle Op. 60 and the Scherzo No. 4 though?  I think both of those are better than any of the Balladen.  There's also the Fantasy Op. 49 to look at.
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prongated
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« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2007, 12:13:15 PM »

...very exciting!
...so I agree with lazlo...

IMO, I think technical difficulty shouldn't affect ekirth's choice here...in any case, I don't know if it's been threaded before, but I think in terms of overall difficulty:

4 > 1 > 2

Ballade 2 is very beautiful when played musically, Ballade 1 is tricky to bring out well in a performance, and Ballade 4 requires more maturity than the others here. I don't recommend the Polonaise because I think there are better ones that you can learn...

I'd choose Ballade 1 because I think it's a good learning curve in a way...how you can interpret with structural coherence. That's what I (eventually!) worked out anyway...
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ekirth
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« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2007, 06:34:16 PM »

I've heard all of them...Problem is, I like all of them.  Wink I guess I was just curious as to their popularity here.

re soliloquy: I haven't looked at them--I'm really just picking from these four. I'll put those down for later reference, though. Thanks for the suggestions!

re thaicheow: I'm assuming that I've got plenty of time to work on it--I'm not learning this specifically for an audition or anything.

re prongated: Thanks for the notes Smiley.

Anyhow, thanks for the advice and such, though I still haven't decided.
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hodi
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« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2007, 07:19:57 PM »

polonaise op.44 f# minor
very beautiful (difficult too Sad
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kriskicksass
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« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2007, 07:28:27 PM »

There's quite a big difference between the ballades and the polonaise in terms of how useful they are for your repertoire. Any of the ballades can be a centerpiece on a recital program, while the polonaise is a great finale or encore. Any of those pieces would be great for an audition, but you said that that's not a concern.

Personally, I would go for the polonaise, but that's because I have no use for big pieces in my rep right now. After that I would go for the ballades in the order 2 > 1 > 4.
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elevateme_returns
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« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2007, 08:03:39 PM »

why not do ballade 1. in my opinion thats the best of the four. no 4 might be a bit tricky for you at this time, its hard to tell just from a rep list.

but i would go with ballade 1. amazing piece when you've learnt it.
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elevateme's joke of the week:
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tradge
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« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2007, 10:04:04 PM »

I quite like Ballade 3, when played well, its absolutely gorgeous!
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elevateme_returns
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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2007, 10:13:49 PM »

tradge mate... thats not on the list. lol
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elevateme's joke of the week:
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franzliszt2
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« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2007, 11:10:54 PM »

I quite like Ballade 3, when played well, its absolutely gorgeous!

I take it Simon showed u my recording  Cool lol  Grin
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ramseytheii
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« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2007, 03:55:13 AM »

I quite like Ballade 3, when played well, its absolutely gorgeous!

Seconded!

Walter Ramsey
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ihatepop
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« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2007, 07:31:32 AM »

I recommand the Ballade No1. Its easier than the No4, which might be too advanced for you now (I far behind you). And most importantly, it sounds beautiful. Anyone could like it.

The most important point in picking a piece to learn is wheather you like the piece or not.

ihatepop
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cloches_de_geneve
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« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2007, 08:14:47 AM »

Not Nr. 1, EVERYONE is playing Ballade one, you are going to be immediately compared with the best performances, listeners will tend to be critical no matter how you play it. The same actually applies to Ballade 3.

In contrast, Nr. 2 is played much less and it is a fantastic piece with its combination of tranquil lyricism and abrupt explosions. I would pick No. 2.
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"It's true that I've driven through a number of red lights on occasion, but on the other hand I've stopped at a lot of green ones but never gotten credit for it." -- Glenn Gould
Nightscape
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« Reply #15 on: June 23, 2007, 10:19:15 AM »

Only play Ballade 1 if you know it by heart and love it, are familiar with the best recordings and videos of it, and even then only and only if you can sightread 95% of it hands separately with no technical problems.  If you are going to be playing this for people and not for yourself, you need it to be nearly perfect otherwise there is no point since there are literally hundreds if not thousands of pianists capable of giving a satisfactory performance of this.  That's a lot to live up to!

It is an audience favorite, and by all means learn it for yourself if for anyone.  It is one of Chopin's most successful compositions and the amount of musical pleasure it will give you is astounding compared to the amount of work it requires to learn it.

Be warned about playing it for other pianists or judges.  It will be impossible to make the majority of them happy even with a technically flawless performance.  There are so many widely divergent views on the interpretation of the piece that it can be a very stressful experience.  Just go to youtube and look at the comments of the Horowitz and Zimmerman recordings posted there to see what I mean.
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franzliszt2
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« Reply #16 on: June 23, 2007, 01:03:13 PM »

The ballades are soo musical you can do anything with them to a certain degree. Working on any of them opens about a million doors. Don't worry about sounding like others, if you start to think you have to sound different you'll sound like everyone and sound the same. If you get my point...(by trying to be different you'll end up being the same) just do what you feel is best with them. Technical problems can be solved.
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ekirth
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« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2007, 01:26:55 AM »

Thanks for all of the feedback--I'd no idea that no. 1 was so popular, or that no. 4 was that difficult (I tend to just sight-play the first couple of pages to get an idea, but after looking at the rest of it today... Shocked).

I've been going back and forth between ballade no. 1 and no. 2--I love both. I think that no. 4 is a bit too much technically, especially considering that I'm learning La Campanella at the same time. I've already played a polonaise before and ought to try something a bit different, perhaps, because this next year will be my last year before going off to college and I don't know if I'd be able to take lessons in college or not.

Well, thanks again.  Smiley

p.s. I did take a look at the polonaise in f# minor, and it is gorgeous.
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ihatepop
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« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2007, 06:19:37 AM »

No problem. I'm sure everyone here on pianostreet is willing to help.

Good luck with your pieces!

ihatepop
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themongru
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« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2008, 05:54:18 AM »

why not do ballade 1. in my opinion thats the best of the four. no 4 might be a bit tricky for you at this time, its hard to tell just from a rep list.

but i would go with ballade 1. amazing piece when you've learnt it.

i reckon that no.1 is the best personally.  Cool
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eddie54
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« Reply #20 on: May 30, 2008, 05:36:26 PM »

i've performed all the ballades.....so here's my take.....the easiest one is 3, and perhaps the one that keeps the most delicate melody throught.....I think 2 and 1 each have their difficulties for technique.....2 is much shorter, and very nice....1 is the most played since of the drama and melodies it has.....4 is considered the ballade you play after you've been through quite a bit in life, haha.....imo, 2 would be th best to start with since it's pretty straightforward and sounds amazingly hard, even though it isn't.....

other chopin pieces dear to my heart are of course the barcarolle in F#major,  and scherzo no 2 in b-flat minor (crowd always loves this)....only downside for me about playing the heroic polonaise, is that everyboday plays this piece, and for me it doesn't encompass the polonaise feel that the F#minor one does.....that's just me.....have you heard the andante spiniato and grande polonaise? 
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pierre13457
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« Reply #21 on: October 04, 2008, 01:05:22 PM »

Ballade # 1!  Hands down. It has everything - the triumph, the power, the beauty and the pathos. Imagine the joy of creating that glorious music yourself! Good luck!
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popdog
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« Reply #22 on: October 05, 2008, 11:05:49 AM »

Go the 2nd ballade.  The coda is nutty,
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chopinmozart7
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« Reply #23 on: February 21, 2009, 10:37:54 PM »

pick the chopin ballade no 1 Grin
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If the immortals had written music for all eternity, we would not have remembered their music.
njalli
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« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2009, 08:42:10 AM »

HAH! unlucky for you the best ballade is no 3

but tho, try to listen to Arthur Rubenstain version of the heroic polonaise

and yeh, i would pick the heroic polonaise,

no need to discuss this further!
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breier25
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« Reply #25 on: February 27, 2009, 09:13:23 PM »

Ballade No 1 all the way.  I have played this and heard many people play this and I enjoy all the different versions played.  This is an excellent piece and I think that you would enjoy mastering it.  It would be nice to hear your interpretation of it.  Go for it.
Ricky Wink
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david_w
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« Reply #26 on: March 11, 2009, 05:21:17 AM »

I would have to agree with the majority here.  The first Ballade will offer you an enormous amount of challenges.  I would stay from the the 4th Ballade - until after you have played at least 2 other ballades.  The 4th is extremely difficult - and does require an enormous amount of maturity.  I've played the 1st, 2nd and 4th ballades.  The 4th - by leaps and bounds - was so much more difficult to learn and to play.

Good luck - and have fun with the Liszt!
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berniano
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« Reply #27 on: May 22, 2009, 04:13:06 AM »

Wow! Everyone is picking on Ballade 4! This one is my absolute favorite, and I'm not finding it that difficut to interpret at all compared to the others. So far I've played the first ballade, third ballade, the Barcarolle, and currently learning the fourth ballade. To me, musically, the fourth is actually coming easier than any of the others did, and the first Ballade was the hardest, followed by the Barcarolle. The fourth ballade is longer than the others in number of pages, not time, and it does have its challenges technically. Hoewever, it's coming much more naturally to me than the first Ballade did. So don't cross it off your list-- this piece is marvelous!!
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scarabin
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« Reply #28 on: May 22, 2009, 04:45:56 PM »

june 21 2007 and still ongoing thread,
we need more topics here
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jwilste
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« Reply #29 on: June 03, 2009, 08:17:55 PM »

In your situation, I'd pick the Ballade Number 1 in Gminor. It's a fantastic piece and not as difficult as #4 as I see it. There's lots of musical variety, tempos and the ending is fantastic. I'm not fond of number two and number 4 is very mystical, brooding and tragic. And tricky to play well. The polonaise is nice too, but my favorite is Ballade #1. Good Luck!

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danmor
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« Reply #30 on: July 10, 2009, 04:04:48 AM »

Try and play the Ballade No.1, and the heroric polonaise
All those choses are beatuful songs, but the ballade no.1 is really cool (especically in the last two minutes).
I'm sure you'll have no problem learning and mastering the polonaise if you are learning "la campanella"
If you can, you should try all 4 ballades. All four of them are great; some harder than others, but not that intense. The 4 scherzi are harder. 

                                                             Have Fun!
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markherring
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« Reply #31 on: February 13, 2010, 01:26:57 PM »

I personally love the first ballade because it is so romantic, passionate, and powerful. I studied it for about a year, with varying sucess. All these large scale Chopin pieces are brilliant, however, so i'm sure you will not have any regrets no matter what you choose. Hopefully you will have more sucess than i did! Most of all, enjoy what you play.
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stevebob
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« Reply #32 on: February 13, 2010, 04:22:31 PM »

It's interesting how this discussion has been revived repeatedly since its original run almost three years ago.  I found myself wondering which piece the OP wound up picking; a few weeks after posing his question here, he listed the Ballade Op. 38 in another thread about repertoire learned (or being learned) and then stopped posting.  I wonder how it worked out.

I also wonder what the general stance is here on resuscitating old threads.  I used to frequent a forum in which it was frowned upon, notably because posters come and go and the original participants in a discussion aren't likely to be present months or years later.
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What passes you ain't for you.
nanabush
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« Reply #33 on: February 13, 2010, 04:43:09 PM »

If it's an open ended thread where the OP doesn't have a question in hopes of getting a definite answer, I love seeing these revived threads!  This one has turned into a general 'good Chopin choice' thread, which to me seems fine. ?

If it's something like "what should I play for my recital this Februrary" in 2004, and someone posts "play this" 5 years later, then that would seem a bit random.  But generally, these repertoire threads turn into a list of peoples' opinions on pieces to play, whether or not the OP is still here.

You'll get people mad for reviving these threads, but you'll also get people mad for starting new threads that may have come up in the past 5 years.  So pretty much, someone isn't going to like what you post  Wink but I just try to ignore those people; you get used to it.
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Interested in discussing:

-Prokofiev Toccata
-Scriabin Sonata 2
interpolatingmadman
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« Reply #34 on: March 01, 2010, 11:28:24 PM »

I realize this thread is very old and the OP must have made his choice long ago.  But I just had to get my 2-cents-worth in about the Chopin Ballade No.1.  What a glorious, powerful piece!  This has remained one of my all-time favorites -- both to perform and to listen to -- since learning it in graduate school.  I find that it always seems to "fit" me, no matter where I am in life.  Its themes and lush harmonies are perfect for celebratory times, for mourning, for times of anxiety. . .

. . . and, dare I say it. . . my partner says this is the sexiest, most sensual thing he's ever heard me play.  Cheesy I feel that way, too.  It's a towering achievement for Chopin, of course, but it's also a go-to piece for nearly all occasions for the rest of us who are merely content to play it, not compose it.  

LOVE THAT g-MINOR BALLADE!  Few pieces for solo piano elicit the emotions in me that this piece does.
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