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Chopin Ballade Confusion (Read 6033 times)

Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Chopin Ballade Confusion
« on: July 30, 2004, 05:07:31 AM »
Hmmm my theory teacher told me that Chopin's fourth Ballade was like one of the most difficult pieces ever, and is regarded by many pianists as "The Beast." There was a recent thread that said the second was the hardest...and funny because good 'ol theory told me that and the third were the two easiest...although the fourth is my favorite, I had just concidered playing this as a side study...but if he is indeed correct it may require a more...substantial commitment.
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Offline argerich_smitten

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #1 on: July 30, 2004, 07:05:45 AM »
Although I am not qualified so say (I have not gotten any of the ballades up to performance level), i've heard from most higher-ups that # 2 is the most difficult.  It is regarded by many pianists as (just remove that 'a' from your quote).  It is considered one of the romantic masterpieces.  

Offline allchopin

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #2 on: July 30, 2004, 08:57:36 AM »
I'd have to agree with those who say that the 4th is the toughest, but only regarding the coda.  #2's coda is tough but 4 is a little more syncopated.  2 is also easier in general because, hey, it is half as long as 4!  Twice as hard to keep in your repertoire also (I failed that test)...   ::)
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Offline Hmoll

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #3 on: July 30, 2004, 11:40:33 AM »
Quote
Hmmm my theory teacher told me that Chopin's fourth Ballade was like one of the most difficult pieces ever, and is regarded by many pianists as "The Beast." There was a recent thread that said the second was the hardest...and funny because good 'ol theory told me that and the third were the two easiest...although the fourth is my favorite, I had just concidered playing this as a side study...but if he is indeed correct it may require a more...substantial commitment.


Your theory teacher should stick to teaching theory.

Ballades in order of difficulty - easiest to hardest.
1 - #3
2 - #2
3 - #1
4 - #4
However, some think #2 is harder than #1.
I've never heard any of them referred to as "the beast," and none of them are the most difficult pieces ever written.
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Offline rph108

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #4 on: July 30, 2004, 12:56:04 PM »
The coda in the fourth Ballad is probably the most difficult that Chopin wrote of codas. Maybe thats what your teacher was talking about.

Offline Max

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #5 on: July 30, 2004, 01:13:52 PM »
I personally think they go in order of difficulty (from easiest to hardest), 3,1,2,4. But to be honest, the difficulty margin from 3, 1 and 2 is barely noticable.

And I wouldn't call it the beast, when pieces like Scherzo 4 are hanging around.  :o

Offline sharon_f

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #6 on: July 30, 2004, 02:00:00 PM »
I agree with Hmoll.

#3, 2, 1, 4 (least to most difficult).
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Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #7 on: July 30, 2004, 07:29:56 PM »
Ok, well thanks guys, it looks like my theory teacher may have just been a drama queen (which I already knew lol). I think I'll jump on that 4th one then...

And Max, to be honest I don't think I've ever heard Chopin's 4th scherzo....actually I don't think I even knew there was one...I need to look at that as well....
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Offline Max

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #8 on: July 30, 2004, 08:42:44 PM »
It's not often recorded...I believe it's in E.

Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #9 on: July 30, 2004, 11:27:43 PM »
Oh that's what that is....yeah I've heard it played by Ashkenazy and some guy from the Archive website, I don't like it very much...the 3rd is my personal favorite.
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Offline maxy

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #10 on: July 31, 2004, 12:48:04 AM »
I find ballade 1 and 4 harder than 2.  I have yet to seriously try #3...

Offline Max

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #11 on: July 31, 2004, 12:51:21 AM »
The 4th Scherzo is brilliant - written when Chopins creativity was at its peak, as was his mentality - leading to a piece resemblent of an ascension to heaven.

IMO, of course.  :)

Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #12 on: July 31, 2004, 02:13:59 AM »
Funny, I don't really like alot of Chopin's "happy" works...somehow I find them...corny? And of course that's just my opinion...
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Offline Rach3

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #13 on: July 31, 2004, 07:30:53 AM »
Which of the ballades were you referring to as 'happy'?
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Offline DarkWind

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #14 on: July 31, 2004, 09:13:30 AM »
Scherzi 2 and 3 are the cool ones  8).

Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #15 on: July 31, 2004, 10:02:00 AM »
Quote
Which of the ballades were you referring to as 'happy'?

I wouldn't dub any of the Ballades happy, but other works (coughcough)the 4th Scherzo, some of the Waltzs and I don't know, I can't think of anything else at the moment seem cornishly happy.
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Offline rph108

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #16 on: July 31, 2004, 11:06:28 AM »
Hes referring to the 4th Scherzo. If you didnt know that Chopin had 4 Scherzos you really need to  study Chopin more. I definitely would not start with the 4th ballade. I would start with the 1st or 2nd scherzo, which doesnt require that much knowledge of Chopin's music.
The Chopin 4th Scherzo was one considered one of his happiest works. I didnt like it at first myself, but after listening a few times I think I would consider it one of my favorite Chopin pieces.

Offline rph108

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #17 on: July 31, 2004, 11:11:41 AM »
I realized I spelled Ballade wrong and used the wrong plural for Scherzo. That really bothers me.   ???

Offline Max

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #18 on: July 31, 2004, 02:55:35 PM »
I also found it a bit funny for someone not to have heard of the 4th Scherzo...

It took me a bit of listening to it to understand it, but after 3 or so listens I decided that it was my favourite. It's also one of the few works with more emphasis on chordal passages. (Is chordal a word?)

Offline Max

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #19 on: July 31, 2004, 02:55:51 PM »
I also found it a bit funny for someone not to have heard of the 4th Scherzo...

It took me a bit of listening to it to understand it, but after 3 or so listens I decided that it was my favourite. It's also one of the few works with more emphasis on chordal passages. (Is chordal a word?)

Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #20 on: July 31, 2004, 08:53:13 PM »
It's chordial. And rph108 I have studied Chopin in great detail, and I did know the 4th scherzo, however as I already stated I did not like it therefore diddn't remember it right away. And I also have already played the 1st Ballade, and far more difficult works, but the 4th Ballade is my favorite Chopin piece, and I'm playing it because of that.
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Offline rph108

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #21 on: July 31, 2004, 11:54:17 PM »
Well, thats a good reason for playing it. I was just saying that the 4 scherzi and 4 ballades are pretty well known to many who have studied chopin. And I wasnt sure if you had much experience with any of them, so thats where I suggested to start off if you didnt(its always a good idea to go back and play them if you have time).  :)

Offline Nu-Steinway-Player

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #22 on: January 22, 2005, 09:55:41 AM »
Maybe your teacher was calling the 4th Scherzo a beast.  That would be appropriate.  Ever tried to play it?  It's a pregnant dog.  Those fleeting chords throughout and the passage work is insane.  The Pogorelich recording of all Scherzi is amazing. 

Offline calidris

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #23 on: January 22, 2005, 06:27:53 PM »
The Pogorelich recording of all Scherzi is amazing. 


I second that! :)
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Offline SteinwayTony

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #24 on: January 22, 2005, 06:33:31 PM »


Ballades in order of difficulty - easiest to hardest.
1 - #3
2 - #2
3 - #1
4 - #4


I agree with Hmoll's ranking exactly.  No way #2 is the hardest. 

The two in my repertory thus far are #1 and #3, so I think I need to stand up for myself and assert that #1 is more difficult than #2 by a longshot.  It is significantly longer in duration, more emotionally involved (my subjective opinion), and the coda is far trickier.  As soon as I saw the left hand of the coda, with the clef sign changing after every chord, I thought "oh brother."  Getting that crystal clear without any missed notes is a deceptively difficult task.

Offline steinwayguy

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #25 on: January 23, 2005, 03:31:03 AM »
The fourth ballade is not technically difficult. No. 2 is the most technically difficult. F Minor, however, is by far and away the most interpretatively difficult Ballade. Overall, I've heard No. 1 is the most difficult overall, but I haven't played it....

Offline pianowelsh

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #26 on: January 25, 2005, 05:29:46 PM »
No4 is the hardest and the coda IS very hard to bring off in the heat of the moment. No 2 and 3 are about equal in terms of mechanical difficulty but 3 is I have found more difficult to get really convincing interpretation (also view of my teacher who studied them with perlemutter). No 1 is virtuosic but interpretively quite straight forward! ? maybe
no2 + 3 (equal)
no1
no4 ::)

Offline wintervind

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #27 on: January 26, 2005, 11:07:28 AM »
The fourth ballade is not technically difficult. No. 2 is the most technically difficult. F Minor, however, is by far and away the most interpretatively difficult Ballade. Overall, I've heard No. 1 is the most difficult overall, but I haven't played it....

No. 2 is difficult in terms of interpreting the first theme. I believe it is supposed to be about a lake (the beginning section), but don't quote me on this.
If you can't play the the beginning well, forget about having a decent performance of this piece.
Accually this is true about all of them, most can play the loud sections, but most batch the slower, more melodic sections.
And the 4th is the hardest


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Offline whynot

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #28 on: January 26, 2005, 04:16:07 PM »
The word is chordal, and in reading old parts of this very interesting conversation (I'm new so I missed when it first came out) I noticed a lot of, "You don't know THAT piece?" kind of reactions.  I didn't take the typical path of lessons and competitions and learning the pieces that everyone is supposed to know, so I've had that said to me, too.  Just an observation.  I do know the scherzi, but I wouldn't feel badly if I didn't!  I mean, there's a lot of music out there, no one could get through it in a lifetime.  I've played all the ballades, and for me the sixths in the coda make #4 the most difficult because I have very small hands.  I still play whatever I want, and usually it's not a handicap at all, but there's no way for me to play that section without a big stretch.  If I had bigger hands, I would probably rank them differently.  Cheers, everyone.     

Offline rodrk352

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #29 on: February 21, 2005, 05:41:45 AM »
Okay, I've been following this debate, and after four days of intense practice on all four of the ballades this is my conclusion about the toughest ballade (technically speaking) to play: it's <drumroll please>..... all of them. They all demand a lot of practicing, because the intense passages, when Chopin is describing a storm or an inner upheavel of some kind, the pianist is called upon to whip up that extra bit of energy, and the chords become more complicated as well. Whenever the score says presto, the pianist must have the notes down pat because if you play it too slowly and carefully it loses the effect. So you have to find the correct fingering and practice it over and over again. I thought maybe the 3rd is the easiest to play, but there again, the tempo must increase towards the coda, or the piece falls flat. I can't help but think that all the hard work and effort to master this difficult music is well worth the effort though. Practicing is a grind. You want to scream, because if you practice too much you get sick of the music. Eventually, when the notes come right, and you can start thinking adding feeling to the music, you will forget how much time and effort it took to get there. The ballades have to be considered among Chopin's most wonderful achievements.

Offline pianowelsh

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #30 on: February 21, 2005, 03:03:37 PM »
Your right they are all Very difficult!!!!! ;D

Offline Skeptopotamus

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #31 on: February 21, 2005, 03:30:05 PM »
im not super big on chopin, but from what i can tell, i'd put them in order of

3, 1, 2, 4

from easiest to hardest.  But this is a kinda dumb topic.

Hey- which of the sorabji sonatas is harder?  well, i guess there is that 4:30 one, but you know what im saying.  None of them are easy.

They are as hard as you let them be, and some will be harder for different people, but i think the fourth is definitely the most difficult speaking generally.

Offline rodrk352

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #32 on: February 21, 2005, 07:11:55 PM »
    To put the subject in perspective, I would put Chopin's ballades on a much higher level of technical difficulty than say, any of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, or Grieg's lyric pieces. And, by the way, the romantic and sentimental pieces of Greig and Mendelssohn hardly ever make it on the concert stage anymore, probably because they are not flashy enough. They are considered salon pieces. The piano pieces of Grieg and Mendelssohn are unjustly overlooked.
   Chopin's ballades are even more difficult than the impromptus (and Fantasie-Impromptu) which are in turn on a higher technical level than nocturnes, though no less satisfying to play. I have heard a lot of student pianists at the Yale School of Music with incredible technical ability roll through Chopin's preludes, or Beethoven's Waldstein sonata, with great expertise. I have not seen one of them even put a Chopin ballade on the program, probably on the advice of their teacher.

Offline pianonut

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #33 on: February 21, 2005, 07:33:29 PM »
am reworking the second chopin ballade, and this is the hardest piece in my repertoire.  i get so relaxed (playing the irish sounding part) that by the time i get to the presto con fuoco i can't switch gears fast enough yet.  maybe, the key is to find your spot for both hands early (while waiting on the fermata).  i just sit there and enjoy it, and suddenly realize 'oooh i've got to jump on the fire truck.'  does anyone really play this piece well?

who plays the fourth ballade really well?  i've heard that christopher thibadeut plays chopin pretty well. (hope that's the spelling of his name).  he plays (on one cd) on the original broadwood that chopin did.
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Offline rodrk352

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #34 on: February 21, 2005, 08:23:33 PM »
    Maybe because the 2nd ballade was dedicated to Schumann (who told Chopin that he considered the 1st ballade to be his best work, which pleased Chopin who thought the same), I now hear a Germanic dance melody in the opening theme, not Irish-sounding. As other people have pointed out, the opening theme is supposed to represent a tranquil lake. When I first heard the piece, not knowing anything about the poem about which it is purportedly based on, I didn't see a lake at all. The music seemed to have a wintry feel to it, as of a little town sleeping under a comfortable light snow. All is peace and quiet until a storm arrives and billow of wintry air roars through.
   The first time I played the piece, I forgot about the presto that procedes the quiet opening theme. After turning the page, my mouth gaped open when I realized what was in store. "Jumping on a fire truck" is about it. I actually laughed, shut the music book, and put off practicing for another time. If you don't use the correct fingering on the right hand (using the fourth and fifth fingers for the top-most notes), you can't possibly get it right. And then there is the difficulty of the last page, where you need to be so careful with the right hand, while all the time keeping the momentum of the piece from screeching to a dead halt. And why play the last few bars, where the principal theme returns, if you haven't played well what just preceded it? It's like a figure skater falling on his triple jump, then trying to finish off with a smile. No need to bother.

Offline pianonut

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #35 on: February 21, 2005, 09:45:52 PM »
hahaha!  that's a good one about the triple jump, too.  there must be an intense concentration that i haven't arrived at yet.  i have never been able to play with long distances between both hands and get all the notes right, yet as my teacher has shown - the key may be keeping one's hands flatter and closer to the keyboard and sort of feeling the notes under your fingers.  i do have the fingering you speak of (5 and 4 on top thirds).  this really helps, too.

what poem is the ballade based upon.  i've only heard the analogy of a very smooth lake (and to play the first part very evenly with the rhythm - not any rubato).  i'd like to read the poem.
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Offline rodrk352

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #36 on: February 21, 2005, 10:08:33 PM »
    The epic poem by Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz that inspired Chopin's 2nd Ballade
is called "Konrad Wallenrod."
     I did a search on Konrad Wallenrod through the Internet and could find no translations.  >:(  I don't think poetry can be translated anyway without losing half its charm.
     The next time I tackle the ballade I'll follow your teacher's advice.

Offline pianonut

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #37 on: February 21, 2005, 10:38:19 PM »
oh yes.  i remember the name 'mikiewicz.'  i think i found some  info a while back (not about the  poem so much as the ballade) in a journal article.  i'll do some looking for the poem.  i read about chopin and his love for poland.  this ballade always reminds me of an idyllic setting with family and friends, and then everything destroyed and taken away.  all that is left is the memory (which returns).   
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Offline rodrk352

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #38 on: February 26, 2005, 12:37:31 AM »
    Well I spoke too soon. After a week of practicing the ballades, I've given up on the fourth for now (because of its difficulty coupled with its length), and now concentrate on the third, because I'm convinced that one is the easiest. In other words, it now sounds more like music than the other three. The difficult passages in the third come at the end of the ballade. Maybe it'll sound decent in another month.
    I'm making better progress on the second than the first. So I'm going to hit those two ballades hard until nausea sets in, then I'll buckle down on the first. I forget which famous pianist thought the first was the most difficult interpretatively. I think Vladimir Horowitz.
    As for the second, I am not using the pedal at all during the opening andantino, except in the opening bars or where expressly indicated. It sounds crisper that way. Does anyone out there disagree?
    The agitato of the second presto con fuoco is my favorite passage in this work. Very emotional and operatic.

Offline steinwayguy

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #39 on: February 26, 2005, 06:33:06 AM »
    Well I spoke too soon. After a week of practicing the ballades, I've given up on the fourth for now (because of its difficulty coupled with its length), and now concentrate on the third, because I'm convinced that one is the easiest. In other words, it now sounds more like music than the other three. The difficult passages in the third come at the end of the ballade. Maybe it'll sound decent in another month.

The third really isn't very difficult, especially in comparison to the other three. I'm firm in my belief that the order (easiest to most difficult) is 3-2-4-1.

    I'm making better progress on the second than the first. So I'm going to hit those two ballades hard until nausea sets in, then I'll buckle down on the first. I forget which famous pianist thought the first was the most difficult interpretatively. I think Vladimir Horowitz.

I think musically speaking the 1st is most difficult, but the 4th is most difficult interpretatively. Everyone plays the first ballade, but does anyone really play it extremely well? I feel not. There are soooo many sections, and I have never heard of, much less heard, anyone who combined all of the sections to achieve a sense of true continuity. Yes, it's hard to pick up, but yes, it's never there.

    As for the second, I am not using the pedal at all during the opening andantino, except in the opening bars or where expressly indicated. It sounds crisper that way. Does anyone out there disagree?

Yes, but only because my personal image of f major is distinctly "round" and not "crisp" as you say.

Offline Musicag

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #40 on: February 27, 2005, 12:08:21 AM »
My ranking would be:

#3 (easiest)
#1
#2
#4 (most difficult)

Ions ago I played all four... If I may I would recommend start with the code if one is going to start #4 as a new piece.

Offline dbrainiak914

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #41 on: March 31, 2005, 04:28:29 AM »
It is definitely 3<1<2<4

The great difficulty in No. 4 is not it's technical challenges, but in its interpretation.  Just making the first two lines have that perfect sound is so difficult.  DANGIT, I forget who, but a famous pianist once said that that opening was the hardest thing for him to play and be satisfied.  It's such a deep piece, moreso than the other three (yes, moreso than one) and to really pull off the musicality of it requires some soul-searching, IMO.
"The artist will spend months on a Chopin valse.  The student feels injured if he cannot play it in a day." - Vladimir de Pachmann

Offline doowlehc

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #42 on: March 31, 2005, 04:59:51 AM »
It is definitely 3<1<2<4

The great difficulty in No. 4 is not it's technical challenges, but in its interpretation.  Just making the first two lines have that perfect sound is so difficult.  DANGIT, I forget who, but a famous pianist once said that that opening was the hardest thing for him to play and be satisfied.  It's such a deep piece, moreso than the other three (yes, moreso than one) and to really pull off the musicality of it requires some soul-searching, IMO.

I totally agree... the first 2-3 pages of 4th ballade are the most difficult (musically / "interpretively") hardest.  How do you make the opening sound like "opening a tale about the long past" (this is how I 'see' the opening), and how do you make the melodies that just keep on repeating a melodic 'motif' in different harmonies, going on for 3 minutes, and make it without sounding too 'sentimental', while convey a concrete emotional depth is amazingly difficult. 

At this point, I still cannot find 1 satisfactorial recording of it - any one can recommend 1?  Often I find it is played with too much rubato and make it too 'sentimental to me' (like Cortot or Horowitz),  or too 'predictable' like Perrahia or Zimmerman  (they just seem to play each phrase in exactly the same way, albeit louder at some poin ts).

But honestly, I myself have no clue how to play it well.  I learned it, and put it down, because I just fail to come up with a concrete idea of how to play the first 3 minutes of this ballade well. 

Offline steinwayguy

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #43 on: March 31, 2005, 05:47:11 AM »
At this point, I still cannot find 1 satisfactorial recording of it - any one can recommend 1? Often I find it is played with too much rubato and make it too 'sentimental to me' (like Cortot or Horowitz), or too 'predictable' like Perrahia or Zimmerman (they just seem to play each phrase in exactly the same way, albeit louder at some poin ts).

But honestly, I myself have no clue how to play it well. I learned it, and put it down, because I just fail to come up with a concrete idea of how to play the first 3 minutes of this ballade well.

It's good that you can't find a recording you're happy with. That means you know what you want. Or at least what you don't want, which helps some too. And you're never going to play it well unless you figure out what you want. It may take years, it's taken me months. But I know exactly what I want now. Come up with an idea for every single note if you need to. It's just such a damned thick piece.

Offline dinosaurtales

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #44 on: March 31, 2005, 07:22:53 AM »
Ok, well thanks guys, it looks like my theory teacher may have just been a drama queen (which I already knew lol). I think I'll jump on that 4th one then...

And Max, to be honest I don't think I've ever heard Chopin's 4th scherzo....actually I don't think I even knew there was one...I need to look at that as well....

4th Scherzo - ahhhhH!  the middle section may be the most beautiful little piece of music everl written.  Listen to it at least!
So much music, so little time........

Offline tocca

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #45 on: March 31, 2005, 09:44:54 AM »

At this point, I still cannot find 1 satisfactorial recording of it - any one can recommend 1? 

I really like Rubensteins recordings of the Ballades. It might be because i sort of "grew up" with them, i listened to them a lot when i was young.
I bought them on CD a couple of years back, and in my view he plays the Ballades wonderfully.

Offline doowlehc

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #46 on: March 31, 2005, 10:01:53 PM »


It's good that you can't find a recording you're happy with. That means you know what you want. Or at least what you don't want, which helps some too. And you're never going to play it well unless you figure out what you want. It may take years, it's taken me months. But I know exactly what I want now. Come up with an idea for every single note if you need to. It's just such a damned thick piece.

Steinway Guy, may be you can record what you play and let me listen to :-)   !!  that would be helpful.

So how do you play the opening?  Do you play it fast, slow, medium speed?  with rubato?  straightforward way?  problem is I heard so many different ways to play it, but some that may be entirely different sometimes suite me, but other times I don't like it.  I am very inconsistent in what I like how it should sound.

Offline lfischer

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #47 on: April 01, 2005, 01:33:01 AM »


Your theory teacher should stick to teaching theory.

Ballades in order of difficulty - easiest to hardest.
1 - #3
2 - #2
3 - #1
4 - #4
However, some think #2 is harder than #1.
I've never heard any of them referred to as "the beast," and none of them are the most difficult pieces ever written.


I agree with this ranking. I learned the 1st Ballade to performance level, and half-learned the others, and definately the 4th was hardest because of that beast of a coda. 2 and 3 weren't nearly so hard. 2 has some tricky passages, but at least its short.

Offline Sasha42196

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #48 on: April 09, 2005, 06:27:27 AM »
I love the 1st Ballade, it's one of my favorite pieces.  There is something there that makes me feel that Chopin had a lot more to say but had to move on.  It's almost a similar listening experience of some of his preludes.  Maybe that's why I love it so much, 'cause it makes me want more.  As far as difficulty, it's really tough, not so much technically as musically.  I suppose that an average conservatory student would master it's technical challenges with some effort, but it requires a real musical intellect and maturity to interpret.

Offline pianomann1984

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Re: Chopin Ballade Confusion
«Reply #49 on: April 09, 2005, 07:41:21 PM »
I suppose that an average conservatory student would master it's technical challenges with some effort, but it requires a real musical intellect and maturity to interpret.

I am in my 2nd year doing a BMus at Trinity College of Music, London, and will be playing the 4th Ballade in my End Of Year exam in June.  I would argue that the difficulties in the Coda of this Ballade are pretty obvious.  But don't get sucked into this 'difficulty' debate - the Ballades contain many hidden difficulties - like pedalling for example; or the opening of the 4th - how is one to hold the perfect musical poise for over 2 minutes of music, yet still retain clarity and variety of colour?!  The foremost difficulty is practicing efficiently when the temptation is to play them because they are so blindingly beautiful.  The trick is to practice them correctly.  Saying a passage is difficult is all well and good...but why is it difficult?  Be ruthlessly methodical to the point of being unmusical if you must.  This doesn't make you unmusical...it simply means you are able to separate the difficulties of performing - something to be commended.  The first thing my current teacher told me was "Be a perfectionist in practice, and a realist in performance."  This is something I remember through every moment of practising.  And anyway: why the question of difficulty with just the Ballades?  All Chopin is difficult - even the Nocturnes and the so-called 'easier' preludes.  For 4 years of my life, I refused to play Chopin because I felt that I wasn't ready.  Playing it well (even with the technique to cope with the enormous difficulties of numerous passages)  requires a massive variety in one's tonal palette, and extreme sophistication of pedal technique to produce a clarity, as well as that misty haze that we associate with so much truely great Chopin playing.  I don't simply say this because there is a tendency to be noble in modern pianistic culture (after all there are many that say "All Chopin is difficult").  I have obtained these views from several years of personal experience and struggle.  Chopin is never easy, and those that succeed in performing it well (professional or otherwise) have my admiration! I myself have actually nearly finished 4th Ballade after about a month's study alongside other works and intend to be one of those 'admirable' people, though I do not deny it is going to be difficult!

Remember - the most impressive performances are given when the performer gives a rendition of something difficult with apparent ease!  Keep practicing until these passages are easy! It's not difficult with dedication and discipline.

Happy practicing!  ;D
"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"