Frederick Chopin's Ballads: Content, Interesting Facts, Meaning, Listen

The Ballads of Frederic Chopin

The ballad for composers of the Romantic era was one of the favorite genres. Through a huge arsenal of artistic and figurative means, which the ballad has, the musicians could express the whole range of feelings, from lyrics, to epics. For genius Chopin, the musical genre was the personification of ancient legends and legends. You can find out what significance Chopin's ballads played in music history, read interesting facts and listen to musical works on our page.

Value in music history

For the first time the ballad genre was used by the famous composer Franz Schubert in vocal music. The first work can be considered the ballad "Forest King". In instrumental music Frederic Chopin became the discoverer of the genre.

It was in the work of the musician that the main features were formed:

  • Comparison of epic and dramatic images;
  • The presence of an indirect or direct literary program, a bright connection with the epic;
  • Relatively free (mixed) form of musical presentation;
  • Narrative, as a method of presentation of the material;
  • The rapid development of events;
  • Singleparticle;
  • The tragic resolution of the conflict.

After Chopin, the ballad became popular in the works of Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and Anatoly Lyadov.

Interesting Facts

  • The genre "Ballad" came to music from literature. It belongs to the epic genus. This is a story, legend, legend or legend, which bears in itself a historical background.
  • The fourth essay in this genre was originally written in meter 6/4. Only then did Chopin perfect the composition and rewrite it in the 6/8 meter. The first version of the author's manuscript was sold at auction in Lucerne in 1933.
  • The first ballad was written at the same time with the famous "Revolutionary Etude". So the composer wanted to support his native Poland in a difficult historical period.
  • The second ballad is dedicated to Robert Schumann.
  • The third ballad is often associated with two literary works: "Svitezianka" by Adam Mitskevich and "Lorelei" Heine. But the tragic content contradicts the bright image of the composition.
  • Robert Schumann, fond of the works of the Polish composer, after listening to the first ballad, wrote a letter to the author. According to Schumann, this is the best work that was written by Chopin. The composer replied that for him the composition is no less significant.
  • Many researchers claim that the ballad number one was created after reading the poem "Konrad Wallenrod", authored by Chopin's close friend Adam Mickiewicz. But there is no exact information about this fact.

The content of Chopin's ballads

For the life of the composer composed 4 ballads, each of which is a masterpiece.

Ballad №1

The writing was written by the author in 1835. Only a few years passed after the suppression of the uprising in Poland. While working on the composition, the composer's experiences on the theme of the Motherland have not yet lost their pain and sharpness. Perhaps that is why the music is emotionally filled, and, to some extent, dramatically tense. In the heroic and tragic character one feels not indifferent to the fate of the people of his native country.


Tonality - in G minor. To convey the drama, the author refers to the sonata form. It is this musical form that can manifest musical conflict. Under the romantic influence of the design becomes more free. The introduction is a pronounced recitative, as if the narrator begins his own narration. The archaic nature of the beginning helps the listener to mentally get into a completely different world, where historical events take place.

This work has not lost its relevance today. It is often performed on the largest stages of the world and is one of the peaks in the piano performing arts. Smooth, smoky theme sounds leisurely, something like a waltz. As if memories of past years pop up. This is a world that is filled with warmth, kindness. Gradually, paints begin to acquire a darker character. As if the sun had gone behind the clouds. The connection between the two themes of construction contributes to obscuration. The weak lobes are accentuated, which gives tension. But excitement is replaced by a poetic and tender theme written in the key of E-flat major, the key of light and harmony. Figurative naturalness is characteristic of this musical structure.

Development opens for us another side and allows us to develop a dramatic conflict. The atmosphere is injected. In the party appear swift passages. The climax is based on a figurative change in the second theme. Powerful dynamics and chord structure emphasize the epic character. Sound flow rushes at fantastic speed. The second theme returns again, securing a new heroic image. The first theme appears darkly. She also changed and acquired the features of passionate pathos.

In the code, the action ends. Tension fade into the background, replaced by grief and an insatiable sadness about the serene past. The declaratory epilogue sums up the dramatic collision. The tragedy has happened, nothing has changed.

Ballad №2

Theatrical, figurative brightness - this is what the second work in this genre consists of. Many associate this work with the famous literary creation of Mickiewicz, but Chopin himself did not indicate the plot program.

The free rondea-shaped form allows using images that are diverse in mood and paint. The topics are interconnected by the tonal plan according to the tertz ratio. The constant change of major and minor creates an emotional swing from sadness to fun and joy. The musical composition begins with a purely folk theme. Objectivity and lightness are clearly traced in it. Suddenly there is a contrasting theme on the fanfare intonation. The nature of the music is constantly changing. The episodes are contrasted to the theme, but the music of the refrain is modified and developed. It turns out an endless musical stream, leading to a bright and colorful climax. Chromatic intonations give the original topic an infernal character. She became more gloomy. Its genre appearance has changed, it has become the personification of evil.

In the code there is a sensual breakdown. In a minor key, a brief excerpt of the first theme sounds. Nevertheless, the composer managed to turn the ballad from a subjective experience to an objective perception of the world, which allowed him to complete the composition using folkloric intonations.

Ballad №3

The tonality is As-dur, although significant tonal deviations are noticeable. Compiled in the years 1840-1841. It is considered one of the best and characteristic of the mature works of Chopin works.

Despite the fact that the ballad was written for piano, one can trace the orchestral composition, which is expressed in register rolls. Dense texture is replaced by solo sections. The form is fairly free, which is typical for the genre. A typical beginning is the recitative of the narrator, an objective view of the world, a narration. The theme is bright, it is based on dance. The dynamics gradually increase, leading to a local climax and recession. The second theme is rhythmically similar to the previous one, but unlike it, the theme has an internal potential for development. Gradually, the counterpoint appears in one of the most dramatic topics. She tends to the second theme, distorting and poisoning her. It creates tension, which is replaced by a calm mood. Gradually, the movement becomes more dense and fast. Color darkens, dominated by dramatic intonation. Chromatic intonations give more tragic climax. However, the light returns and the product ends extremely optimistic.

The composition embodies the process of fighting darkness and light. The result is the victory of good over evil.


Ballad №4

A year after the creation of the third ballad, Chopin again takes up writing a composition in this genre. This time the tragic concept is being realized.

The tonality of F minor, but the tone plan is quite complex and includes a bright colorful development. Mixed form: rondo sonata. Unlike previous works in this genre, the essay has a bright, serene beginning. Tonal introduction has a vague interpretation that allows you to create weightlessness, instability and airiness music. Enters the relief theme. The main intonation is dissonance (triton), which is repeated many times, emphasizing the vague and gloomy mood. Rhythmic pulsation creates a special arrhythmia. Several waves of development, a constant change of pace can make the culmination of a logical and bright. It is dominated by a modified theme. The texture becomes more dense and powerful. There is an emotional breakdown of the passage. Sharply from the forte dynamics falls to pianissimo. Everything dissolves in chromatic intonations, the passage movement prevails.

There is a second theme, which is characterized by lyrics and luminosity. Bright contrast compared to the previous one. Improvisation as a basis. The theme is actively developed by connecting the material of the first melody. Entry intrudes, section ends with passage in minor key.

It was the calm before the storm. The role of canonical moves gradually increases, which leads to the appearance of the first theme in a lighter sense. An additional colorful element in this section can be considered the second topic. She seemed to lift us up. Feels the influence of romanticism. The general climax is written in light tonality - Des-dur. But the light gives way to darkness, the chord sound destroys the idyll. Everything collapses. Avalanche sweeps away everything in its path. Thus ends the fourth ballad of Chopin.

It is in 4th ballad that the composer's evolutionary growth is noticeable. The work embodies all the characteristics for his work.

The use of music in the cinema

The works of Frederic Chopin can often be heard in films. Ballads are no exception. Music can be found both in modern cinema and in cinematic classics.

Ballad №1 "Crimson Peak" (2015)
"Your April Lies" (2015)
"Heartthrob" (2010)
"Colombo: Murder by notes" (2000)
"Harmony" (1998)
"Expromt" (1991)
Ballad №2 "Stop and burn" (2014)
"50 years of arguments" (2014)
"Inside Lewin Davis" (2013)
"Under the skies" (1998)
Ballad №3 "Love is a strange thing" (2014)
"Playing Mona Lisa" (2000)
"Show Rena and Stimpy" (1995)
Ballad №4 "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004)
West Wing (2003)

Chopin's ballads can be called the pinnacle of the composer's instrumental work. Bright dramaturgy, diversity of images and endless sea of ​​interesting melodies. 4 ballads - 4 romantic worlds.


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