Ballade No. 2 (Liszt)
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The Ballade (ballad) No. 2 in B minor, S. 171, is a piano composition by Franz Liszt, written in 1853. Liszt plied one of his favorite genres—the programmatic one movement tone poem designed to provide both the variety and unity of a sonata or symphony. He drew his program from Gottfried August Bürger’s once widely read Gothic horror ballad Lenore. Punctuated with the grisly refrain "The dead ride quickly! Are you afraid," the poem tells of Lenore’s wild hundred-mile midnight ride with the zombie of her recently slain soldier-fiancé, toward a cemetery where their nuptials are solemnized amid a riotous gathering of skeletons and spectres. The ballad is based largely on two themes: a broad opening melody underpinned by menacing rumbles and a luminous ensuing chordal meditation. These themes are repeated a half-step lower; then march-like triplet-rhythms unleash a flood of virtuosity. Eventually, Liszt transforms the opening melody into a rocking major-key cantabile and reiterates this with ever-more grandiose exultation. The luminous chords provide a contemplative close.
- Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood, Program Booklet, August 11, 2004.
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