Gabriel Fauré

Ballade for piano & orchestra (or piano solo) in F sharp major, Op. 19

    Description by James Reel

    The two versions of Fauré's Ballade -- the first for solo piano, the second for piano and orchestra -- have very few bar-to-bar discrepancies, but their effects are quite different. The solo version, using Chopin's Ballades as its obvious model, is thick, large-scaled, and passionate; the concerto version, by redistributing the thematic and harmonic strands, seems leaner and more elegant. Fauré showed an early version of the solo Ballade to Franz Liszt in 1877; the older composer played part of it, then asked Fauré to finish, saying, "I have no more fingers." The writing is elaborate and formidably difficult in the solo version. The more accessible version with orchestra, which the composer premiered with Edouard Colonne's orchestra in 1881, is no longer a display of virtuosity; this version seems more relaxed, even prettier. Debussy caustically dismissed it as overly charming and effeminate. The Ballade enjoys a very free form -- "somewhat outside what is usually done," in the composer's admission -- but essentially falls into three initial sections, each developing its own theme, followed by a fourth section that combines the second and third themes. In the version with orchestra, Fauré added a bar just before the flute solo that hints at the third theme, thus now incorporating some form of all the thematic material into the work's first 40 bars. The opening Andante cantabile, in F sharp major, introduces the A theme, a lyrical melody over a gently palpitating left-hand accompaniment, with the orchestra delicately supporting and answering the piano's phrases. The piano part soon becomes more declamatory and intense, but then relaxes into the sorts of arpeggios and runs that the score's detractors deemed too frivolously decorative. Some unsettling modulations lead to the E flat minor Allegretto section, dominated by the B theme. This decadent, falling motif is more impetuous (by Fauré's gentle standards) and sends the pianist into long passages of runs and trills. The harmony brightens to B major for the Allegro section (framed by two short Andante interludes), which centers on the rocking and trilling C theme. The final section, Allegro molto moderato, returns to the opening tonality of F sharp major and gracefully intertwines the second and third themes with busy, sparkling piano writing. Fauré eschews a bravura ending, wrapping up the Ballade with a few quiet, arpeggiated flourishes.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 La Dolce Volta LDV 32
    2018 Erato 573653
    2018 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 18018
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295886691
    2017 Warner Classics 560476
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295886738
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Somm SOMMCD 258
    2015 Meridian Records MER 84636
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794954
    2014 Hyperion CDS 446014
    2014 Danacord DACOCD 729
    2013 Hyperion CDA 67875
    2011 Oehms Classics OC 798
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94035
    2010 Vox 3032
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 50999906820
    2009 CRD Records CRD 5006
    2009 Timpani 1C1172
    2009 Timpani / Zebralution
    2008 Mirare 72
    2008 EMI Classics 2292152
    2008 EMI Classics 501759
    2007 Lyrinx 2253
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946397722
    2007 EMI Classics
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946392747
    2007 EMI Classics 385260
    2006 Tall Poppies 184
    2006 Brilliant 93007
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2004 Cascavelle 3067
    2003 Columbia River Entertainment Group 215001
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 74728
    2002 Decca 470246
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 74840
    2001 Dutton Laboratories 9714
    2001 CBC Records 5178
    2001 Arcobaleno 94482
    2000 Columbia River Entertainment Group 150003
    2000 Columbia River Entertainment Group 150010
    2000 Columbia River Entertainment Group 150011
    2000 Columbia River Entertainment Group 315001
    2000 Columbia River Entert / Columbia River Entertainment Group 315000
    2000 Malibran Music 141
    2000 Classics for Baby / Columbia River Entertainment Group CRG-150000
    2000 Columbia River Entertainment Group 315004
    2000 Columbia River Entertainment Group 150013
    1999 Mandala 4933
    1999 NM Classics 97014
    1998 Columbia River Entert / Columbia River Entertainment Group 1166
    1998 Columbia River Entert / Columbia River Entertainment Group 1382
    1997 Sony Classical 62643
    1997 Vox 7201
    1997 Biddulph Recordings 35
    1997 Naxos 8 556679
    1996 Naxos 553634
    1996 CRD Records 3426
    1996 Carlton 00782
    1995 Chandos 9416
    1995 Hyperion 66911
    1994 Chesky Records 93
    1994 Erato 4509-96220-2
    1994 Naxos 550754
    1993 Russian Disc 10013
    1993 Pearl 9927
    1992 Sony Classical 47548
    1989 Chandos 8773
    1929 EMI Music Distribution 694372A
    IMP BBC Radio Classics 91362
    EMI Music Distribution 691492
    Brilliant 93007/2
    Music & Arts 236
    Virgin 59655
    SNE 638
    REM 311250
    Erato 10828
    EMI Music Distribution 7224529
    Decca 748021
    RPO 7023
    Royal Philharmonic Orchestra 7023
    Klavier Records 11011
    Essay Recordings 1094