The piano-ballade is Chopin’s invention, and, at the same time, the most individual and poetic genre of romantic piano literature, the purest manifestation of the romantic aesthetic. The four Ballades, conceived at the peak of his compositional career, are telling their tales in quite unique formal designs, all different from one another. Chopin’s free improvisations, (improvisations: “in promptu”) were seemingly “piano pieces” without genre; individual pieces for performance, longer than the nocturnes but shorter than the ballades or scherzos. “His compositions were all but pale shadows of his improvisations”, wrote Georges Sand.
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