Skip to page content


Length: c. 8 minutes

About this Piece

The manifestation of Chopin’s abiding spiritual connection to Poland was not limited to the obvious musics of his loved native land, the mazurkas and polonaises. For example, the first three of his four Ballades were said to be inspired by poems of the Polish patriot Adam Mickiewicz. The Third Ballade, once known as Undine, which was a poem by Mickiewicz, basks in some of the most open-faced, exuberant music Chopin ever wrote. In fact, it’s hard to think of a more joyous piece of sizable proportion than this Ballade by the composer often accused of being melodramatic. An eight-measure introduction is the smiling, narrative-like entrance to a work that virtually shuns angst. There is no disquiet in the benign main theme, although there are hints of some seriousness. The latter does indeed evolve in a minor-key section but passes quickly: The Ballade’s tenor is chiefly piquant and buoyantly aristocratic, elements that reach an apogee in the irresistibly charming second theme heralded by rocking octaves. The piece ends, not with cruel disregard for a pianist’s virtuosic endurance as in the manner of the knuckle-breaking codas of the other Ballades, but gracefully, maintaining the dual air of simplicity and elegance that has pervaded most of its pages. –Orrin Howard