25 Easy and Progressive Etudes (Op. 100)

15. Ballade in C Minor

Ballade is surely one of the most popular studies from the set. The form of the Ballade is ABA with coda, the A sections in C minor, and the B section in the tonic major (C major). Marked Allegro con brio we will want to feel one main beat in a bar.

The title Ballade simply means story, and there is no better piece for the intermediate player to use their imagination to decide what is happening in their particular version of the story. Perhaps we are about to enter a haunted house, the right hand repeated chords representing our heart pounding and our short panting breaths, and the left hand semiquavers our trembling and shivering as we cross the threshold? What do we make of the spooky sf A’s in the left hand? Obviously something that goes bump in the night! Our fears are calmed in the middle section, when we relax a bit and have a little dance, realising how silly we were to be scared. However, the nagging A flats (from bar 47) take us back to our anxious mood and we relive the story. Just when we think we have managed to run away from the spectre that has been haunting us, it grabs us by the scruff of our neck in the final sf chord. Having a vivid narrative such as this in the forefront of our mind as we play is a great way to communicate with our listeners, and to calm down any fears we might have about performing.

Play the repeated chords close to the keys, making sure the wrist is not floppy. The chords in the A sections are short, crisp staccatos; use a slightly longer staccato for the B sections (keeping the hand inside the keys for the repetitions). I recommend plenty of ongoing practice with the left hand alone at a variety of different tempos, controlling and shaping the line by careful listening. Beat-to-beat, and bar-to-bar chaining practice at speed are helpful to make sure the two hands synchronise exactly together.

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