Recorded on 03/29/2011, uploaded on 03/29/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Dating from 1841, the third of Chopin’s ballades for the piano was composed during a relatively happy period of the composer’s life in which he spent summers at Aurore Dupin’s (better known as George Sand) estate in Nohant. Like the other ballades, it is also generally accepted that the Ballade No. 3 was also inspired by Adam Mickiewicz’s poetry. In this case, it is believed to be the poem “Urdine,” which tells the tale of a water sprite who falls in love with a mortal man. Chopin never confirmed what literary sources served as the creative impetus for his ballades. Likely he did not wish his listeners to know at all but instead to draw their own narratives from his music.
In an unhurried Allegretto tempo, the third Ballade begins with a melodic figure beginning on the dominant and rising upward to rest on its octave. This introductory passage, coming to a close on the tonic in the eighth measure, is followed by a thematic section built largely around a motif found in the opening measures. It presents itself as the first theme of a sonata form, but as the ballade progresses it becomes increasingly difficult to establish the various boundaries and sections of the form. A return of the introduction serves as the transition to the second theme, which comes to dominate much of the ballade. Beginning with octave Cs indicating a change of key, the second theme begins in a carefree F major but then changes to F minor building into a dramatic chordal section towards the end of the theme. Interestingly, Chopin repeats the opening F major portion of the theme again before departing into a related, but more animated, section. A third repetition of this opening melodic phrase, this time in the key of A-flat major, begins to establish the pattern of a set of variations. This is further confirmed by the ensuing C-sharp minor section, which embellishes much of the material of the second theme first with a contrapuntal bass and then later with animated figures in the right hand. In a lengthy return to the key of A-flat major, Chopin continuously hints at the opening measures of the ballade, until the tonic key is attained and an embellished restatement of the introduction is heard. The melodic material of the introduction becomes the focus of the remainder of the ballade, erasing any semblance of a sonata form’s recapitulation section. Finally, a brief return of the animated runs heard earlier in the piece bring about the final chords and an energetic ending. Joseph DuBose
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