Ballade No.1

Don't let the coy opening of this Romantic piano work fool you - this one's a firecracker

Frederic Chopin

This epic Chopin ballade takes its time to get going, but once it does you'll be completely swept along.

Chopin initially composed his set of one-movement ballades between 1831 and 1842, and quickly amassed a reputation among jobbing pianists as some of the most difficult pieces out there. And, what's more, the format took hold. After Chopin's example was a success, the likes of Brahms and Liszt decided to write ballades of their own.

But this first entry in the set might be one of the most deceptive pieces Chopin wrote. A doom-laden, intentionally dirge-like opening sets a rather sombre tone to begin with, but it's only temporary. If anything, having such a low-key opening passage makes the pianistic fireworks that follow it all the more impressive. So stick around – it gets better as it goes along.