Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23
Jacques Rouvier and Yuki Osaki work on phrasing by exploring the themes of question and answer, as well as tension and release. He discusses which phrases seem uncertain and which are more emphatic, and how to reflect this through sound quality and dynamics.
While some of the phrases may be short, Rouvier demonstrates how to evoke more extended ideas in longer phrases by creating long, legato lines that are always moving in a clear trajectory. In addition, the music must have a singing quality, achieved through the strategic use of pedal, relaxation in the fingers, and total involvement of the body.
When to use rubato.
Deciphering questions and answers within the phrasing.
Creating long musical lines and direction.
Playing with a singing quality of sound.
Relaxing the left-hand so it supports the right.
Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G minor, composed in 1835, is the first of its genre and one of the composer’s most famous works. Chopin’s Ballades came to be considered some of the most representative works of the Romantic piano repertory. His contemporary, Schumann, was an enthusiastic advocate of Ballade No. 1, which Chopin completed after moving to Paris as a political exile. The poetry of Adam Mickiewicz likely inspired the work, though Chopin did not have any specific agenda intended for listeners. After a brief introduction beginning on a Neopolitan chord, the first main theme is presented, at first quietly but quickly building in excitement and agitation. The second theme, in contrast, is more lyrical and calm. The two themes are revisited and transformed through a development section. The piece concludes with a stunning Presto con fuoco coda that culminates with a double octave scale descending into the depths of the piano.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this piano masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Jacques Rouvier’s feedback and comments.
He won two Premiers Prix (first prizes): in piano performance (1965) In chamber music (1967).
Jacques Rouvier was born in Marseilles into a family of musicians. He attended the CNSMD in Paris (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse), where he was taught by Vlado Perlemuter, Pierre Sancan, and Jean Hubeau. He won first prizes in both piano and chamber music. Rouvier then decided to broaden his knowledge about wind section and leading orchestra at the CNSMD too. He owes much to Pierre Barbizet and Jean Fassina. Rouvier won several competitions such as the “Giovan Battista Viotti” International Music Competition, Maria Canal International Music Competition, the European Broadcasting Union Competition, the Long-Thibaud Competition, and the Competition of the Fondation de la Vocation. In 1970, he founded the Rouvier-Kantorow-Muller trio, with whom he still performs regularly.
Since 1979, he has taught at the CNSMD in Paris and at the Berlin University of the Arts.
Born in Poland in 1810, Frédéric Chopin was a gifted pianist and a highly-acclaimed composer. He was a child prodigy who from the early age of six-years-old began performing in great halls of the Polish bourgeoisie. It was around this time that the young musician began composing. Between 1810 and 1830, he composed 30 works for solo piano. Chopin’s compositions comprise beautiful melodies, sophisticated harmonies, and an original approach to formal design. If the piano is the romantic instrument par excellence; it is due, in large part, to the contribution of Chopin.
At the opposite of the orchestral pianism of his contemporary Franz Liszt (representative of the most extroverted and passionate, almost exhibitionist, facet of Romanticism), the Polish composer explored an intrinsically poetic style, of a subtle lyricism. The two composers would later become friends and admirers of each other’s works. It is said that Chopin's earliest compositions are, in some way, a product of influence from the "brilliant style" of public pianism associated with composers such as Hummel, Weber, Moscheles, and Kalkbrenner, among others. Later, the pieces that were composed during his Warsaw period—which involved the radical reworking of forms, procedures, and materials—are testimony to the influence of the Viennese Classical composers and Bach. The influence of popular Polish music is also vital in his works.