Johann Strauss II - Kaiser-Walzer (Emperor Waltz), Op. 437

Strauss often played in the glittering Imperial balls, conducting the orchestra and playing the first violin at the same time.   The majestic launch of this fascinating waltz presents the backdrop of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the hegemony of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph in 1888. Johann Strauss II was Music Director of the Dance Hesperides of the Imperial Court from 1863 to 1872 and composed on occasion for the celebration of an imperial anniversary. The ingenuity of the melody of the Emperor Waltz, which was originally orchestrated for a full orchestra, is such that it was easily adapted for the four or five instruments of a chamber ensemble by the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1925. This waltz is a tender and somewhat melancholic work, which at times turns its gaze nostalgically to the old Vienna. The waltz praises the majesty and dignity of the old monarch, who was fully devoted to his people. It begins with a majestic, magnificent march, which soon re

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.