In 19th century romantic music, a piano ballad is a piece for solo piano written in a "narrative" style, and often lyrical in nature. This type of work made its premiere with Chopin's first romantic ballad, the Ballade No. 1 in G minor, op. 23 written for piano in 1836.
The form of the ballad varied due to its independence from the formal compositional structures existing at the time.[clarification needed] Ballads have often been characterized as "narrative" in style- "[musical] parts [that] succeed one another in a determined order...their succession is governed by the relationships of causing and resulting by necessity or probability."
The ballad of this time varied. In Chopin, for example, the common element throughout his ballads was the meter, commonly 6/8 time, and was based on thematic metamorphosis more than formal structures present at that time.[clarification needed] Brahms' ballad, on the other hand, was clearer in form, and often relied on a three-part song form.
Ballads sometimes alluded to their literary predecessors. Some had obvious or supposed literary associations. For example, the ballads of Chopin could be evidence of such association — these four works[clarification needed] of Chopin were supposedly inspired by the poetry of Adam Mickiewicz, who was a friend of Chopin. However, no such evidence directly from the composer exists. There was in fact not a concrete association to literature until Brahms debuted his four ballads (op. 10), which bear the title "After the Scottish ballad 'Edward' ".
Piano ballads have been written since the 19th century; several have been composed in the 20th century (see below).
Collaborative piano ballads
The piano has also been used in works featuring other instruments, as well as voice. For example, Robert Schumann, a romantic composer and husband of Clara Schumann, wrote a set of two songs, Balladen, Op. 122 (1852–53) which were written for piano and voice. Claude Debussy, a later composer, also wrote for piano and voice with his Trois Ballades de François Villon ( , 1910).
Works for piano and orchestra also bearing the title "ballad" have been written. These include Fauré's Ballade, op. 19, which was written in 1881, and Charles Koechlin's Ballade for piano and orchestra, op. 50, written between 1911–1919. Interestingly enough, Koechlin happened to be a student of Fauré. This work also exists as a solo work for piano.
Examples of solo piano ballads
- Frédéric Chopin
- Clara Schumann, one of the 6 Soirées musicale, Ballade in d minor, written in 1836 Listen here
- César Franck, Ballade, op. 9, written in 1844
- Franz Liszt, Ballade in D-flat major, written in 1845–48, and Ballade in B minor, written in 1853
- Johannes Brahms, Ballades, op. 10, written in 1854, consists of four ballads Watch No. 1 here, Watch No. 3 here, Watch No. 4 here
- Edvard Grieg Ballad in the Form of Variations on a Norwegian Folk Song, op. 24, written in 1875–76
- Humphrey Searle Ballade for piano, op. 10, written in 1947
- Alan Rawsthorne Ballade, written in 1967
- Samuel Barber Ballade for Piano, op. 46, written in 1977, See it played here
- Norman Demuth, Ballade triste
- George Perle Ballade, written in 1981 for Richard Goode, scroll down and listen here
- William Bolcom Ballade, written for Ursula Oppens, premiered January 21, 2008
- Berger, Karol, "The Form of Chopin's Ballade, Op. 23". 19th-Century Music, Vol. 20, No. 1 (1996). p. 46
- Brown, Maurice J.E. "Ballade (ii)", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd Ed. 2001.
- MacDonald, Calum. Review(untitled). Tempo, New Series 148 (1984): 35. JSTOR. 11 Dec. 2008.