Franz Liszt

Ballade, for piano No. 2 (II) in B minor, S. 171 (LW A181)

    Description by Robert Cummings

    Though the composer provided no subtitle, this work's inspiration was Bürger's poetic ballad Lenore. In the Second Ballade Liszt surpasses the music of his First, his only other work in the genre. The earlier piece is fairly direct and uncomplicated, with a lovely main theme and an attractive march-like second subject. Without doubt, it is worthy of greater attention on the recital stages and may be a more compelling work to some ears than its sibling. The B minor, however, is considerably more substantial -- at about 15 minutes it is twice the length of the first ballade, and its formal design and scope are conceived on a far grander scale. It is also the more popular of the two ballades, many pianists having taken up the work in the latter part of the twentieth century.

    An ominous theme in the lower register opens the work, at once setting the groundwork for that menacing dark music so typical of the composer throughout his career. It's as if some grand evil is lurking around the corner. A lovely second subject is soon heard, marked allegretto and making for a contrast that could hardly be more diametrical. Both themes are heard again before there is any development.

    In the middle section the music turns militaristic and brilliant. Here there are virtuosic fireworks and titanic struggles, suggesting a good-versus-evil scenario. Themes are transformed brilliantly afterward, especially near the close, as a glorious, almost operatic-sounding melody is presented; it turns out to be a variant of the grim opening idea. The piece ends softly, with echoes of the alternate theme resonating in a gentle soothing sound. Liszt had originally written a bigger, more bombastic ending, but changed it before publication (1854). He dedicated the piece to Count Karl von Leiningen.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Ars Produktion ARS 38753
    2018 Piano Classics PCL 10151
    2018 Sheva Collection SH 188
    2017 Brilliant Classics 95564
    2017 Blue Griffin Recording BG 451
    2017 BIS BIS 2238
    2015 Medici Classics (formerly Monarch) M 40022
    2015 Sony Classical 88843054582
    2014 Sony Classical 88843047122
    2014 TwoPianists TP 1039305
    2014 Albany Music Distribution TROY 1492
    2014 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 14037
    2014 Centaur Records CRC 3388
    2013 Naïve V 5310
    2013 Naxos 970190
    2013 Decca
    2013 Decca B001898702
    2013 Decca 4785751
    2013 Decca
    2012 Champs Hill Records CHRCD 035
    2012 Piano Classics PCLM 0041
    2012 Preiser Records PR 90801
    2012 Anima / Anima Records ANM 50400001
    2011 Sony Classical 8869783987272
    2011 Telos TLS129
    2011 Naïve V5267
    2011 Cascavelle VEL 3157
    2011 Piano Classics PCLD 0015
    2011 Dal Segno DSPRCD061
    2011 La Dolce Volta LDV 1078
    2011 Decca 4782728
    2011 Decca / Universal
    2011 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099908402
    2011 Orchid Classics ORC100017
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968582
    2010 Gramola 98899
    2009 EMI Classics 13251
    2009 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009 Cascavelle 3101
    2009 Sony Music Distribution 88697575002
    2008 Universal Classics 4766459
    2008 Calliope 93712
    2008 Cembal d'Amour 135
    2007 Music & Arts 1205
    2007 Altara Music 1013
    2006 Gallo 1193
    2006 Philips 473775
    2006 Tudor Records 7112
    2006 Erato
    2006 Virgin 63278
    2006 EMI Music Distribution 67906
    2005 Naxos 8557364
    2005 EMI Classics 74512
    2005 Eroica Distribution 3193
    2004 Haenssler 94051
    2003 Forlane 16819
    2003 Virgin Classics 545573
    2001 Ivory Records 72001
    2001 Haenssler 98183
    2001 Angel Records / Warner Classics 7243557002
    2000 Hyperion 67085
    2000 Dynamic 183
    1999 Disques du Solstice 159
    1999 Philips 462232
    1999 RCA 63314
    1999 Philips Classics 432305
    1999 Philips 456844
    1998 Dynamic 227
    1997 RAP Productions 1905472
    1997 Koch Discover International DICD920386
    1996 APR (Appian) 5514
    1995 Cambria 1073
    1995 Discover 920212
    1995 Altarus 9055
    1995 Connoisseur Society 4195
    1994 BIS 244
    1993 Centaur Records 2115
    1993 RCA 61415
    1992 Vox 5503
    1988 Hyperion 66301
    Chandos 6629
    Unison 82752
    BMG 60954
    RCA 61416
    Rca Red Seal 14585
    Decca 467801
    London 411803