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Length: c. 10 minutes

About this Piece

Primarily, we conceive of narrative in verbal terms. The story. The poem. The novel. No wonder, then, that Chopin appropriated the ballade from its word-bound roots. In literature as well as in song, the ballade had long been associated with epic and dramatic themes—the fertile matrix of the blossoming Romantic era.

The Fourth Ballade, completed in 1842, surveys a vast emotional terrain and is one of the composer’s greatest achievements. Moving effortlessly from heroic declarations to intimate lyricism, Chopin’s tale ends in a brutal, fiery coda. –Grant Hiroshima