Music from Summit: Chopin Ballade in G minor

Here is Krystian Zimerman, looking very dashing:

Here from Summit is the Russian psychic Valentina listening to Daniel Fulton play the piece in Moscow; he looks dashing, too.  The first half of the recital hasn’t gone well, but now things are picking up.


Valentina closed her eyes as he played the solemn opening octaves. She knew this piece so well; he had played it last time, and she still remembered. Duty and love, love and duty—the eternal, irresolvable conflict; that was what it spoke of to her. The harsh minor-key opening theme chillingly spoke of her duty—what she had to do to stay alive; but thank God the theme melted away, and in its place—love. Grand, passionate love, sweeping across the keyboard. The duty theme would return, more menacing, more insistent, but it didn’t matter. The love existed; it too would return, and it would triumph.

Wouldn’t it? Oh, she knew it wouldn’t, she knew it was just a dream, but when Daniel Fulton played the piano like this, anything seemed possible. The tension of the first part of the recital was gone, her prayers had been answered, and now there was only the joy that had been missing from her life for three awful years.

When Fulton finished in a wild flurry of octaves, the audience leaped to its feet to cheer him. All except Valentina, who sat in the balcony with tears running down her cheeks, falling like raindrops onto her beautiful red silk dress.


Update: YouTube also has performances of the G-minor Ballade by Horowitz and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli — surely two of the finalists, along with Gould, for most eccentric pianist of the twentieth century.  (Michelangeli is also a finalist for most poetic name.)  Zimerman is way more showy than either of them, but they are both worth watching.

I played the Ballade when I was in high school.  It’s not impossible, except for the last minute and a half, which I simply didn’t have the technique to pull off.  The third Ballade is much easier.  The fourth is the best of the lot, I think, although not as immediately accessible as the G minor.  It’s also the hardest; I struggled with it for quite a while before giving up.

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