Recorded on 01/05/2011, uploaded on 04/05/2012
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Ballade is among Debussy’s early piano works when his distinctive impressionistic style for that instrument was still in its formative years. Composed in 1890—the same year that other piano works such as the Deux Arabesques, Rêverie, and the Petite Suite for piano four-hands were beginning to appear in print—Ballade was left in manuscript form until 1903. In these first years of the 20th century, Debussy’s compositional style for the piano had fully matured, leading him to loathe many of his early creations for the instruments. This sentiment prompted revisions of some kind or other. For example, the Suite bergamasque, containing Debussy’s much beloved Clair de lune, was significantly rewritten prior to its publication in 1905. Others pieces, like Ballade, were given altered titles in a likely effort to better capture, or perhaps even disguise, the initial impression sought. In the case of Ballade, the original adjective of slave was dropped from the title when it was published suggesting perhaps that Debussy felt the piece’s Russian influence was not strong enough to justify its inclusion. Nonetheless, it is evident, and Ballade remains an example of Debussy crossing the threshold between the late Romantic period and his burgeoning mature impressionistic style.
A charming and serene Andantino, Ballade opens with gentle pianissimo arpeggios and hints of the ensuing principal melody. In the sixth bar the melody arrives in full, soaring over a simple accompaniment of arpeggios. From there, Debussy proceeds to treat the subject by means of variation and with much of the embellishment occurring in the accompaniment. A point of contrast is introduced later as a related subject appears over rippling arpeggios. The intensity of this section, however, ultimately subsides as the principal melody makes a solemn return first in the form of a quasi-plainchant and then amid ethereal harp-like arpeggios. The last variant brings together both thematic elements in a quiet, surreal close. Joseph DuBose
based on a series of recordings in my house -- Gianluca Di Donato
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