Ballade (classical music)

musical setting of a literary ballad; poetic and musical genre in the 18th and 19th centuries, popular with the Romantics and their later epigones
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This article is about the instrumental ballade that was popular in the 19th century. For the medieval French ballade see Ballade.

A ballade is a piece of music, usually for piano. It has several tunes, and one can easily imagine that it is telling a story (a ballade is a medieval French song which tells a story).

The first composer who used the title “ballade” for his piano pieces was Frédéric Chopin. He wrote four ballades. They are quite free in form. Chopin does not tell us about any particular story he had in mind. Perhaps they are just musical stories. They are four of his finest works.

Later on other composers also wrote ballades: César Franck and Franz Liszt in particular. Johannes Brahms wrote ballades for piano which are quite like songs in their form. Edvard Grieg wrote a ballade which was based on a Norwegian song.

Gabriel Fauré wrote a ballade for piano and orchestra. Some composers wrote ballades for orchestra, but they are really like short symphonic poems.