The Great Taffy Pull

24 March 2013 in Heather, Music

Chopin’s 4th Ballade was my big piece the first year I lived in San Francisco (attending the Conservatory). My teacher and I had long discussions about how to make 6/8 time sound like elegant infinite 6/8 and not like plodding 3/4. It’s somehow too easy—with the lovely main theme—to succumb to a fake 3/4, accenting every third eighth note like a downbeat, as if playing a waltz poorly.

But even in 6/8, there’s another hidden danger, that of turning the serpentine tune into a lilting Venetian boating song.

Nineteen years have passed, yet I remain intrigued by the work and careful thought it takes to give the 4th Ballade a smooth rhythmic line, one that surpasses the banality of its meter.