Chopin: Ballade No.3 in Ab Major Op.47 Analysis



Form: Free Formal Structure. Ab Major

Chopin Ballade No.3 in Ab Major Op.47 Analysis

A (Bars 1-52):


Bars 1-8: Introductory theme, A flat major, settling on the tonic chord in the second inversion in Bars 2, 4, and 6, and ending with a perfect cadence in Bars 7-8. Passing diminished seventh chords (B natural – D – F – A flat) are occasionally used.


Bars 9-16: Tonic and dominant seventh harmony, with some descending chromatic movement in the left hand chords.

Bars 17-24: Similar to Bars 9-16, with a new melody in the right hand. Suspensions and appoggiaturas add richness to the harmony (e.g. Bars 21-23).

Bars 25-36: Moving sequentially from A flat major to B flat minor (Bars 25-27) and C minor (Bars 27-30), then settling in C major from Bar 31. In Bars 33-35, the tonic triad of C major is decorated with appoggiaturas (D, F, and A resolve to C, E, and G, respectively), and there is a cross rhythm in the right hand in Bars 33-34.


Bars 37-52: An extended reprise of Bars 1-8. The first five bars are unchanged, but Bars 42-44 contain a rising sequence based on Bar 41, briefly touching B flat minor (Bars 42-43), D flat major (Bars 43-44) and E flat major (Bar 44) en route.

Bars 45-47 reprise the motive from Bars 1-2, an octave higher than originally, with the last two chords repeated an octave higher still.

The cadential figure from Bars 7-8 is heard in the bass, in double octaves, in Bars 48-49, and the passage ends on the tonic triad in Bars 49-52.

B (Bars 52-115):


Bars 52-54: The third of A flat major tonic triad, C, is heard in gently syncopated broken octaves; this note is also the fifth of F major, and it acts as a pivot note between the two keys.

Bars 54-61: Main theme, F major, moving by sequence towards C major in Bars 56-57 and Bars 60-61. The rhythm is gently syncopated, and the harmony is coloured by appoggiaturas (e.g. Bars 54: A natural in the right hand and F in the left, resolving to G and E natural, respectively). The tonic chord of C major is embellished with a diminished triad (F – A flat – B natural) in Bars 57 and 61.

Bars 62-64: Bar 61 is repeated, and the C major chord becomes the dominant of F minor, with the syncopation more pronounced.


Bars 65-73: A continuation of the main theme in F minor. Briefly returns to A flat major in Bars 67-69, then moves via F minor (Bars 69-71) to C minor, with a perfect cadence and tierce de Picardie in Bars 72-73 (i.e. ending on a C major chord, the dominant of F minor).

Bars 73-80: F minor, with a dominant pedal, leading to an extended return of Bars 63-64, with the right hand an octave higher.

Bars 81-87: An impassioned reprise of Bars 65-71, with denser chordal textures. There is no modulation to C minor this time; Bars 86-87 remain in F minor, with some chromatic movement.

Bars 88-94: An interruption to the preceding melody, with the dynamic level gently dropping to P. Begins in D flat major, then returns to F minor from Bar 91, coming to rest on the dominant chord at the beginning of Bars 93, 94, and 95.

Bars 95-98: F minor, with a dominant pedal, using a motive previously heard in the inner voices in Bars 77-80.

Bars 99-103: Modulating to A flat major (Bars 100-101) then C major (Bars 102-103).


Bars 104-115: A reprise of the main theme (Bars 52-63), beginning in F major and ending in C major.

C (Bars 116-144):


Bars 116-123: Episode, containing more semiquaver (sixteenth note) movement than before. Begins in A flat major, modulates to E flat major in Bar 119, then returns to A flat major at the end of Bar 123. Appoggiaturas continue to add colour (e.g. beginning of Bars 117, 119, 121, and 123).

Bars 124-136: Tonic and dominant seventh harmony in A flat major (Bars 124-126) and D flat major (Bars 126-130), then return to A flat major, leading to an imperfect cadence in Bars 135-136.


Bars 136-144: A flat major, with some secondary sevenths (F – A natural – C – E flat, Bar 138 and 142), leading to a perfect cadence in Bars 143-144.

B (Bars 145-212):


Bars 144-156: Return of the main theme, as a transposition down a third of Bars 52-64 (with small changes to the voicing), beginning in D flat major and moving by sequence towards A flat major in Bars 148-149 and Bars 152-154. Becomes D flat minor in Bars 155-156.

B1 (varied):

Bars 157-165: Continuation of Main theme in C sharp minor (enharmonic equivalent of D flat minor), now with a semiquaver (sixteenth note) countermelody in the left hand. Modulates to E major in Bars 160-161, then moves via C sharp minor (Bars 161-162) to G sharp minor, ending with a perfect cadence in Bars 164-165.

Bars 165-172: C sharp minor, with a dominant pedal in broken octaves in the right hand.

Bars 173-183: An impassioned reprise of Bars 157-163. Bars 179-183 contain a sequence, in which the alto part descends chromatically, while the bass notes (on the beats) contain a descending E major scale; it comes to rest on the dominant chord of E major in Bar 183.


Bars 184-208: The opening motives of the main theme, above an agitated dominant pedal, moving through E major/minor in Bars 183-192, F major/minor in Bars 193-200, G minor in Bars 201-204, and A flat major in Bars 205-208.

Bars 209-212: A flat major, with a dominant pedal in the bass, and chromatically rising minor thirds in the top voices.

CODA (Bars 213-241):

Bars 213-221: Triumphant return of the introductory theme in A flat major, using tonic and dominant seventh harmony.

Bars 222-231: Diminished seventh chords in Bars 222-224 lead unexpectedly to E major in Bars 225-226 (acting like a chord of the flattened sixth degree of A flat), leading to an extended cadential progression in Bars 227-231.

Bars 231-241: Coda, A flat major, using the episode theme, based mostly on the tonic chord, with a final perfect cadence in Bars 240-241.