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Chopin's four ballades are widely regarded as being amongst the most significant extended works for solo piano of the nineteenth century. In an illuminating discussion, Jim Samson combines history and analysis to provide the reader with a comprehensive picture of these popular piano works. He begins by investigating the social and musical background to Chopin's unique style. He describes the manuscript sources and evaluates the many subsequent printed editions, then considers the critical reception of the ballades and the differing interpretations of well-known nineteenth- and twentieth-century pianists. The final two chapters examine the music of all four works analytically. There is a clearly presented formal synopsis of each ballade in turn, followed by a discussion of the works collectively which explores Chopin's own conception of the title 'ballade' and how it may be understood as a musical genre.