Chopin, Ballade in G minor, op. 23

Chopin(1810-1849) lived during the Romantic period, and wrote four ballades for the solo piano. While the term ballade was associated with the French verse-form, Chopin ventured to create an abstract form without using words in his ballades. It is considered one of the most difficult pieces of the piano repertoire not only because of the technical aspects throughout the piece but also because a performance must try to encapsulate as much emotion and meaning that Chopin tried to insert into the piece. With that said, this piece is a reflection about Chopin’s loneliness during the war years.

Another remarkable element of this piece is that although written in the Romantic era, the piece is written in a sonata form. The first theme begins around 0:37 with the recurrent 6 notes that rise and fall. The recurrence of this theme almost appeared like an obsession about his lonely state. I also think that the sonata form helps to depict this return to loneliness because even though he shows variation in the middle, he always returns back to the 6 note phrase. After the first theme, he presents another theme at 2:15 (I think) and 3:10 seems to mark the end of the exposition. As the Classical musicians did, Chopin took theme 1 and developed it as you can hear in 4:02. The fun starts at 6:02 as Chopin, expectedly, defies our expectations of a classical sonata and introduces a passage that is dance-like and exciting. This seems to build up excitement and take us away from the brewed notes in the beginning. However, this fun doesn’t last long as in 7:34 you hear the return to the initial theme that depicts our lonely state.

I think the 6 note phrase is really powerful because for me, it had the power to isolate myself from the environment and make me think about the state I am in. In this way, although no lyrics have been said, Chopin almost compels me to think with just his music and his beautiful crafting of a theme.

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