Appealing piano repertoire for students: Ballade by Burgmuller (Video) and a Lesson-in-Progress

A piece that’s popular among piano students and often steers them back on course, is Burgmuller’s “Ballade.” In previous blogs, I highlighted “The Chase,” “Harmony of the Angels,” and “Tarentelle,” from this Op. 100 Collection of 25 Progressive Pieces.

Burgmuller’s tableau in C minor, (“Ballade”) seems to capture the spirit of Halloween in its opening that’s marked misterioso though the title might suggest otherwise. Nonetheless, when I play this composition, I think of scary images in the first two phrases of part A, before full blown Romantic era lyricism is on display in the Interlude, Part B, in mood changing C MAJOR.

Finally the spooks return in a repeat of Part A (back to “minor”) followed by an added miniature ending (Codetta)

Ballade presents many technical and musical challenges:

1) In Part A and its return, the left hand needs to be fleshed out above the redundant chords played by the Right Hand. Balance of voices is essential.

2) The middle section, Part B, brings a shift in character and voicing as the left hand chords provide a harmonic underpinning for a lovely, lyrical melody needing nuance and shaping.

3) With the return of Part A, a culminating “Codetta” requires the player to go with the flow no matter how unpredictable. The ins and outs of this mini-ending can be a pianist’s nightmare if not carefully paced.


About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: OR or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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5 Responses to Appealing piano repertoire for students: Ballade by Burgmuller (Video) and a Lesson-in-Progress

  1. Lisa says:

    Yes! This piece was in one of my Michael Aaron books and I remember it fondly as one of my favorites. It’s a great mood piece that kids can relate to and it’s also a lot of fun to play.


    • Thanks for sharing! It sounds spooky to me at the beginning–draws a flock of kids to it, just like the reverse mood in Kabalevsky Clowns.

      Two of my students are working on Ballade, and it’s gotten them going with practicing.



  2. Reblogged this on Arioso7's Blog and commented:

    into the Burgmuller spirit once again.. What a great composer so attuned to growing a piano technique within a divine musical frame…


  3. Alice says:

    Hi there! I’m curious if you are using pedal at all?


    • The middle section, can be dry if one chooses to play in that way. Yet, dabbing the pedal lightly, can add a nice effect. Certainly not drowning the section. I emphasize lightly.
      As you know in Op. 100, if you look at “Harmony of the Angels,” for example there is an editor’s note that pedal is optional. Another piece, yes, with a different character, but aesthetics play a role in interpretation, or we would all sound the same. Obviously, Ballade’s first and last section, would NOT enlist any pedal, but again, the more lyrical middle section might invite a dab.


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