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Henselt, Adolf von (1814-1889)



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Language Edition

General Information

Composer: Adolf von Henselt

Title of the Publication: Ballade

Opus: 31

Composition Year: 1854

Edition Type: Urtext

Edition Number: FE006

Editor: Martijn Vromans

Languages of the Text: English, German, French, or Spanish

Paper: A4 Clairefontaine 120 gsm cream paper

Binding: Black steel wire binding

Pages/Format: Total 40 pages, including 5 pages of introduction and source commentary, plus 30 pages of music.

Weight: 200 g

Difficulty Level: 10/10

Also Included In:

  • FD006 (download)
  • FE001 (anthology)
  • FD001 (anthology download)


Henselt’s Ballade in B minor is a tour de force of Romantic piano literature, celebrated for its noble character and emotional depth. Unlike any other, it intricately weaves introspection, romantic longing, and dramatic intensity into a rich tapestry of sound. This work stands as a testament to Henselt’s unique voice in the Romantic era, distinct from his contemporaries with its robust Germanic melodies contrasted against the elegant phrases often associated with Chopin. The piece’s relentless difficulty is not for virtuosity’s sake but serves to express a particular sonority, marking it as a pinnacle of pianistic expression.


About the Music

Emotional Atmosphere: The Ballade’s emotional landscape is vast, ranging from moments of deep introspection to peaks of dramatic intensity, all underscored by a noble character. This diversity showcases Henselt’s masterful ability to evoke complex emotions through music.

Technical Challenges: This piece is renowned for its formidable technical demands, including rich polyphony that blurs traditional roles of melody and accompaniment. A standout feature is the central section’s complex texture, where melody and accompaniment intertwine across both hands, creating the illusion of a third hand. This requires exceptional dexterity and musical insight, characteristic of Henselt’s demanding compositions.

Harmonic and Melodic Expression: Henselt’s use of subtle chromaticism adds a layer of emotional depth to the composition. While his melodic lines present a Germanic flavor that sets them apart from Chopin’s (arguably more) elegant phrases, they boast a unique charm and deep beauty, providing a rich, resonant experience that stands on its own merit.

Structural Form: Employing a typical ballade form, the piece is a mosaic of moods and atmospheres, featuring recurring sections and a dramatic episode that enriches its narrative depth. The return of the opening theme towards the end brings a cyclical closure to the journey.

Place Henselt’s Output: The Ballade in B minor encapsulates all the hallmark features of Henselt’s mature style, making it a cornerstone of his compositional legacy. It is a work where his full artistic vision is realized, standing as a critical piece within the Romantic piano repertoire.

About the Composer

In the pantheon of Romantic composers, Adolf von Henselt stands out as the poet of the piano, whose compositions blend virtuosic technique with deep lyrical beauty. His approach to piano composition and performance marked a significant departure from his predecessors, integrating intricate techniques to enhance expressive depth.

Born to a modest Bavarian family in 1814, Henselt's prodigious talent catapulted him into the echelons of European music royalty. His early achievements, buoyed by the support of Ludwig I and mentorship under Johann Hummel, set the stage for a career that would navigate both dazzling success and personal battles, including his struggle with stage fright.

Henselt's move to Russia marked a new chapter, where he shifted focus from performing to teaching, profoundly influencing the Russian piano tradition. Henselt's impact is traced through his students and their successors, such as Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Goldenweiser and Siloti, embedding his approach into the core of Russian pianism. Despite facing obscurity after his death, Henselt's oeuvre has been reevaluated, revealing a composer whose works epitomize the Romantic pursuit of emotional depth and technical perfection, ensuring his place in the annals of music history.


  • Portrait
  • Introduction (English, German, French or Spanish)
  • Ballade, Op. 31
  • Critical Commentary (English, German, French or Spanish)
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    Our paper editions are pleasing to the eye: gorgeous and heavy cream paper produced in an environmentally friendly manner. We print our albums ourselves and use pigmented ink instead of toner. Due to the ink soaking into the paper, a beautiful print is created. All our albums are bound with a steel binding spine, so the albums last a long time and stand perfectly flat on the piano.