Instrumentation: Solo Piano
Recording performed by Michael Mizrahi
First Ballade is, in a certain sense, my return to the piano. Even though I wrote Boulez Is Alive in 2006, that work was thoroughly informed by a particular agenda; it was not a "free" composition but, rather, served a specific purpose. This work bears no such load, but somehow bears a greater one instead, as the piano (along with the sequencer) has always been at the center of my compositional life. Its sounds and possibilities, and its spacings and feel, were what brought me into the world of classical music, and they are very much present in every piece that I write to this day. To actually write a solo piano piece, then, is to confront the almost forbidden pleasure of "the thing itself"; if you buy that explanation of the experience, then it explains why I haven't written a solo piano work since I was 17 years old.
Whatever the reason, First Ballade brings many of my favorite piano composers to the table: J.S. Bach, Maurice Ravel, McCoy Tyner, Nicky Hopkins, and (of course) Frederic Chopin. There are no quotes, but it has a "quotational" feel, like it's telling a story. I hesitate to say that it's the story of my life with, and love for, the piano, but I can imagine that being said by someone else. In any case, it's a Ballade in the Chopin sense, written for the magnificent Michael Mizrahi, and dedicated to him and Erica Scheinberg on the occasion of their marriage.
- Judd Greenstein