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Brahms Ballade 10.4

I’ve been meaning to record this one for a long time.

Ballade Op 10 No 4
Paul Cantrell, piano

This is one of those mysterious and introspective pieces like Chopin’s nocturne 15.3 that has a strange logic all its own. It’s low and, even in the crescendos, somehow hushed throughout. There’s not a trace of virtuosic flashiness in it; it’s definitely not a piece that’s about the pianist. The way it unfolds is … well, a nice fellow from Paris named Frank who emailed me about piano recording, and who is also learning to play it, said it well: it’s almost as if the whole piece were a single long phrase. And it ends by dissolving and fading away — a sentence without a period.

I would expect a piece like this to be a late work, from a composer with much wisdom and little to prove to the rest of the world — think, for example, of Beethoven’s Opus 111 or Shostakovich’s late string quartets — but Brahms wrote this when he was 21, or maybe 20. To see inside that young man’s mind…! The mystery deepens!

In spite of the mystery, or really because of it, this is one of my favorite pieces. My interpretation is a little unorthodox, but then so it the music. I hope you enjoy it!