Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23
In this piano masterclass, Professor Jean-François Heisser and student Viriamu Itae-Tetaa work on telling a narrative through one’s playing, and maintaining an equal tempo through the piece. When it comes to ballads, unity is key.
Heisser emphasizes the importance of understanding not only the music “but everything around it.” Other topics that are covered include wrist work, understanding the relationship between the left and right hand, the bass line, and more.
Controlling one’s hands and wrists.
Respecting Chopin’s punctuation.
Maintaining a tempo.
Understanding the dynamics.
Telling a coherent story.
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 Jean-Francois Heisser’s feedback and comments.
1973: 1st Prize in piano, counterpoint, harmony, fugue, accompaniment and chamber music.
Jean-François Heisser is a well-rounded artist, leading a versatile career as a pianist, conductor and teacher. Born in Saint-Étienne, France, he is the disciple and heir of Vlado Perlemuter, Henriette Puig-Roget and Maria Curcio.
From 1991 to 2016, he was a professor at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique. Among his talented students are Bertrand Chamayou and Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, with whom he has developed a relationship of close musical complicity. Presently, he balances his career between being a Musical Director for the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Chamber Orchestra (since 2001), a guest conductor, as a solo artist, and as an Artistic Director of various institutions and major musical productions.
As a soloist, he has played under the baton of renowned conductors such as Janowski, Tilson Thomas, Segerstam, Krivine, Mehta, Plasson, Roth etc., with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Orchestre National de France or Les Siècles, and more. He frequently performs in recitals, with a preference for Beethoven (Sonatas, Diabelli Variations etc.), Brahms, Chopin, the Spanish repertoire (Albéniz, de Falla, Granados, Mompou), as well as the works of great French composers of the past and present.
As a chamber musician, Jean-François Heisser has covered the entire repertoire with musical partners such as the Ysaye, Lindsay, and Pražák Quartets, and his recording of the Bartok sonatas with Peter Csaba (on Praga) is now regarded as an essential work. As a Musical Director, Heisser has been in charge of developing the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Chamber Orchestra project since 2001, firmly establishing the orchestra as one of the finest French chamber ensembles, as reflected in its recordings on the Mirare label.
Moreover, his extensive discography boasts over 40 recordings: after his highly acclaimed recording of the piano works of Paul Dukas (awarded the Diapason d’or de l’année prize), he embarked on a collaboration with Erato Records (a 6-CD boxed set dedicated to the Spanish repertoire of Schumann, Brahms, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, etc.), then with Naïve Records (Beethoven, Brahms) and Praga Records (Weber, Berg, Manoury, Bartok…). More recently, recordings of Marie-Josèphe Jude with Heisser’s transcription for 2 pianos of the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique (Harmonia Mundi) have been released.
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.