Piano ballad

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In 19th century romantic music, a piano ballad is a piece for solo piano written in a balletic narrative style, often with lyrical elements interspersed. This type of work made its first appearance with Chopin's Ballade No. 1 in G minor, op. 23 of 1836, closely followed by the ballad included in Clara Schumann's Soirées musicales Op.6 published in the same year.


The form of the ballad varied because of 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."[1]

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 then.[clarification needed] Brahms's ballad, on the other hand, was clearer in form, and often relied on a three-part song form.[2]

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: the four works[clarification needed] of Chopin were supposedly inspired by the poetry of Adam Mickiewicz, a friend. However, no such evidence directly from the composer exists. There was, in fact, no concrete association to literature until Brahms debuted his four ballads (op. 10), which bear the title "After the Scottish ballad 'Edward' ".[2]

Piano ballads have been written since the 19th century; several have been composed in the 20th century (see below).

Collaborative piano ballads[edit]

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 (L. 119, 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. This work also exists as a solo work for piano.



  1. ^ Berger, Karol, "The Form of Chopin's Ballade, Op. 23". 19th-Century Music, Vol. 20, No. 1 (1996). p. 46
  2. ^ a b Brown, Maurice J.E. "Ballade (ii)", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd Ed. 2001.