Ballade No.1 in G minor
Frédéric Chopin

245

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Don't let the coy opening fool you — this one's a firecracker

This epic Chopin ballade takes its time to get going, but once it does you'll be completely swept along.

Chopin initially composed his set of one-movement ballades between 1831 and 1842, and quickly amassed a reputation among jobbing pianists as some of the most difficult pieces out there. And, what's more, the format took hold. After Chopin's example was a success, the likes of Brahms and Liszt decided to write ballades of their own.

But this first entry in the set might be one of the most deceptive pieces Chopin wrote. A doom-laden, intentionally dirge-like opening sets a rather sombre tone to begin with, but it's only temporary. If anything, having such a low-key opening passage makes the pianistic fireworks that follow it all the more impressive. So stick around — it gets better as it goes along.