Ballade in c minor for Violin & Piano, Op.73
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was born in London, the product of a mixed race marriage, his father, a doctor, being an African from Sierra Leone and his mother a white Englishwoman. His father returned to Africa when he was a small boy and he was brought up by his mother in Croydon. His musical talent showed itself early and he was admitted to study the violin at the Royal College of Music where he eventually concentrated on composition when his gifts were ascertained. His teacher was the renowned composer, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. He and his compositions gained considerable fame during his lifetime. His oratorio Hiawatha's Wedding Feast for a time became as popular as Handel's Messiah and Mendelssohn's Elijah. He made several visits to the United States because of his interest in American Negro cultural life. His fame was such that on one visit he was invited to the White House by Theodore Roosevelt.
The Ballade in c minor was composed in 1907 and composed for the Russian violinist Mikhail Zacherevich, whom Coleridge-Taylor admired. The Ballade was originally composed for violin and orchestra as a tone poem but was quickly made into a version for violin and piano by Coleridge-Taylor so that he and Zacherevich could take it on tour all over Britain. Perhaps because of the dedicatee, the music has a somewhat Slavic aura to it, with the writing in parts reminiscent of the kind of melancholy writing Rachmaninov often produced. It is in rhapsodic form based on a theme announced by the violin over the dark arpeggios of the piano. Numerous changes of tempo and meter eventually lead to an impassioned climax and then an exciting coda. Our soundbite includes the last third of the work, including the coda.
Out of print for many years, this fine work makes an excellent recital piece for both professionals and amateurs.