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Chopin: 4 Ballades (Zimerman)

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Published on Jun 11, 2014

Easily one of the best Chopin recordings ever made.
[Highlights/comments below]

00:00 -- Ballade Op.23 No.1 in G minor
09:36 -- Ballade Op.38 No.2 in F (A minor)
17:28 -- Ballade Op.47 No.3 in A-flat
24:57 -- Ballade Op.52 No.4 in F minor

A milestone in the Romantic piano literature, and a stupendous recording of it. The number of great moments in this is probably too great to count (06:48, 08:03, 15:52, 18:40, 24:23, with many more in between, and the entire 4th Ballade is a single unbroken wonder from its miraculous beginning onward -- although see the famous passage at 28:36, and the numinous 34:18).

Chopin is -- popularly, but not critically -- seen primarily as a great melodist, which reputation does him a great disservice. In the Ballades Chopin does something which Beethoven reserved for his sonatas (and which Chopin never did in his), which was to introduce daring and very effective structural modifications to Sonata form. One obvious example of such a novelty is the "mirror reprise", where the two expositional themes appear in reverse order during the recapitulation.

There are many moments of harmonic/stuctural interest in the Ballades, and some of them have become quite famous. I can't possibly go through everything, so I'll try to flag some things out.

-- The unusual extended Neapolitan Sixth that opens Op.23.
-- The D in m.7 of the Op.23 -- it is a subject of considerable debate if this is a harmonic necessity, setting up a late resolution, or an implied pedal point
-- Constant metrical changes in Op.23.
-- The unusual key relationship between the two main themes of Op.38.
-- The abrupt end of the post-recapitulation development section (in itself odd) of Op.38.
-- The structural role of the opening gesture of the Op.47. It very clearly recurs near the end, but on cursory examination occurs nowhere else in the piece. (It is not actually difficult, with a bit of thought, to figure out how the opening bars feed into the rest of the piece.)
-- The use of dissonances, some passing and some sustained, as an architectural device in op.38.
-- The rather surprising combination of variation/sonata form in Op.52 (something Liszt did more conspicuously in his B Minor Sonata.)
-- The use of counterpoint as dramatic device in Op.52 at numerous points.
-- The rather Beethovenian expected-but-not-actually-there ending in Op.52.
-- Chromaticism in the coda of the Op.52 so intense the section aurally drifts somewhere close to atonality.

  • Category

  • Song

    • Ballade No.1 In G Minor, Op.23
  • Artist

    • Krystian Zimerman
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG (on behalf of Deutsche Grammophon (DG)); Public Domain Compositions, and 5 Music Rights Societies
  • Song

  • Artist

    • KRYSTIAN ZIMERMAN (PIANO)
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG; Public Domain Compositions, and 3 Music Rights Societies
  • Song

  • Artist

    • Krystian Zimerman
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG; Public Domain Compositions, and 2 Music Rights Societies
  • Song

    • Ballade No.4 in F minor, Op.52
  • Artist

    • Krystian Zimerman
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG; Public Domain Compositions, and 5 Music Rights Societies

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