By Jim Samson
Chopin's 4 ballades are extensively considered as being one of the most vital prolonged works for solo piano of the 19th century. In an illuminating dialogue, Jim Samson combines background and research to supply a entire photo of those well known piano works, investigating the social and musical heritage to Chopin's song, comparing the various revealed versions of the ballads prior to contemplating their serious reception and the differing interpretations of recognized 19th- and twentieth-century pianists.
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Extra resources for Chopin: The Four Ballades (Cambridge Music Handbooks)
Yet there is considerable confusion about this. The poems Switez and Switezianka have both been assigned to No. 2 at various times, while No. 49 The most coherent associations are between No. 2 and Switez (see pp. 16-17) and between No. 3 and Switezianka, since the latter is indeed the tale of an 'undine', in effect a version of the familiar Rusalka legend. The opening of No. 50 Such links with Mickiewicz were a commonplace of nineteenth-century criticism and they inevitably encouraged a national perspective on the ballades, especially - it need hardly be added - in Poland, where Chopin was often viewed as a powerful symbol of national identity.
It appears, partly from Chopin's correspondence, that the Fontana copy was the basis of the Schlesinger edition, prepared in November 1841 (plate no. 3486), and that Chopin sent the autograph to Breitkopf (1842, plate no. 6652). Detailed stemmatic analysis for this work is complex and to an extent speculative. Jeffrey Kallberg points out that Chopin had just sold the English rights of Opp. 25 There is evidence that Moscheles proof-read and 'corrected' the Fontana copy for Wessel, but Kallberg suggests that Chopin demanded the return of the manuscript before it was set, insisting that the Wessel edition should be based on the Schlesinger proofs which he (Chopin) corrected.
Chopin's music - from 1834 onwards - was published 'simultaneously' (or nearly so) in France, Germany and England, a practice (common enough at the time) designed to avoid piracy due to the variation in copyright laws in different countries. In most cases the French publisher was Maurice Schlesinger, the German Breitkopf & Hartel and the English Wessel. Chopin usually gave his fair copy directly to Schlesinger, proof-reading himself in 20 Genesis and reception early and late periods and often (but not always) relying on others to do so in the intervening period 1835-41.