Johann Straus II - Vergnügungszug (Pleasure Train), op. 281

Johann Strauss II , known for his waltzes and lively compositions, had a unique approach to his creative process. He consistently sought contemporary and relevant themes to serve as the driving force behind his new musical compositions. This approach ensured that his work remained fresh and connected with the audiences of his time.  One notable instance of this creative approach was the composition of this polka, composed in 1864. This piece of music was specifically crafted for a summer concert held in the picturesque Russian town of Pavlovsk. It's fascinating to note that Strauss drew inspiration for this composition from the world around him. In this case, he found it in the emerging technology of the time, namely, the steam locomotive. The composition itself is a testament to Strauss's ability to capture the essence and energy of the subject matter. The rhythm of this dance piece mirrors the rhythmic chugging and movements of the old-fashioned steam trains that were prevale

Chopin - Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Opus 23

The famous monument to Chopin, Parc Monceau, Paris.

The ballades of the Polish poet Adam Bernard Mickiewicz inspired Chopin to compose the four Ballades, each telling a musical story. The first, Opus 23, took four years to complete (1831-1835) and coincided with Chopin's arrival in Paris and his acceptance by the city's good society.

The poet Adam Bernard Mickiewicz.
Unlike most of Chopin's pianistic compositions, which focus on unexpected changes in mood and contrasts, Ballade No.1 in G minor has a narrative, almost epic quality. In this respect it is consistent with literary ballades, such as the epic 17th century poem, Faery Queen (Fairy Queen) by Edmond Spencer. Many regard Chopin's four piano ballads as the most mature and refined part of his wide-ranging work.

The introduction provides the backdrop, which is full of a sense of tragedy and premonition. This contrasts with the first melody that is both lyrical and simple. Observe the use of ceases and subtle qualms in melody, which characterize the dramaturgical techniques of storytelling. Sometimes the narrative emerges in an escalating cry, while others retreats into a quiet whisper.

The main melody recalls the erotic supplication of a knight trying to win the love of his beloved. His erotic suggestions begin politely, later becoming more passionate until the second theme introduces a more tender note. The knight becomes more confident as the music becomes more robust. But then the tragic mood returns as the knight attempts to exterminate his mortal rival in battle. As the music progresses we imagine him shaking and getting up again for a while only to find a tragic end in the hands of his ferocious opponent.