The week this post will be live is also the same week I will be performing Frank Martin’s Ballade for my final Masters’ recital. Given the priority of recording – over live rehearsals – I have been able to be much more detail focused on this piece than I could have ever been in ‘normal’ times. This is not an easy piece by an means; if you are not familiar with the work allow me to break down the sections and shed some insight on what I’ve learned over the past few months.


Let’s start with the composer: Frank Martin. He is a Swiss composer who lived from 1890-1974 and he studied piano and composition with J. Lauber. Early on he was influenced by French composers – in the early 20th century, the distinct impressionist style of French music such as by Faure. Around the 1930s he also studied with Arnold Schoenberg; the culminating of these contrasting composing styles finally came together in the late 1930s. Gerhard Braun’s notes in the Universal score put it best, “these compositions blend twelve-tone technique and functional harmony, frequent use of ostinato and pedal point, the incorporation of perfect major and minor triads and exploitation of the melodic and harmonic tensions generated by the leading note and the tonic.”

Frank Martin’s Ballade was originally written for flute and piano when composed in 1939; it was composed to be premiered at the Geneva International Music Competition of that same year. Several years later, in 1941, the Ballade was adapted for flute and orchestra.

Before getting into the piece, and honorable mention is Paula Robison’s Masterclass: Frank Martin Ballade pour flute et piano. This book – as the title would suggest – workshops the Ballade and is a great resource for anyone who either loves to listen to the piece or intends on performing it. I won’t recap much of what she says within my own analysis because I think Robison writes so concisely; however, the use of medieval poetry (speech patterns) is something worth looking into when studying the Ballade.


The first question is: how do we section the Ballade? Generally the tempo markings indicate a change in texture, timbre, or color; the ones that I regard as significant are as follows:

  • Allegro ben moderato (the opening-m.43)
  • Vivace (m. 44-94) / Half = Dotted Half (m. 95-153)
  • Cadenza (m. 154-193)
  • Lento (m. 194-199) / Con moto (m. 200-272)
  • Presto (m. 273-282) / Molto vivace (m. 283-323)
  • Meno mosso / Presto (m. 324-358)

What interesting is that when broken up into 6 sections of similar lengths the form resembles in a warped mirror.

Like an: A B C-C B’ A’

The material from the Allegro ben moderato returns at the very end in the Meno mosso – slightly distorted; the material in the Molto Vivace comes BEFORE the Meno mosso with a varied version of the original Vivace motives. The Cadenza and the Lento / Con moto sections act as the mirror or the axis for the larger A and B themes to reflect.

A: Allegro ben moderato (m. 1-43)

The work opens with the conversational eighth note motive. There is no real tonal center – a la Schoenberg – however, this is NOT a tone row either… so what is it? There are three 2 bar sets within the opening: (1) G A Bb F#; (2) F# E# G# A (3) B# B A# Gx. The only discernible pattern is that each time there is a move upward by a half step such as from G to G# to Gx.

The cyclic eighth notes are broken by a register change – which is another trademark of the piece. And you will notice that following that break that the beaming changes from 6 to two groups of 3. Where Martin is setting up the 2 v 3 (and 3 v 2) between the flute and piano early on. In measure 11, there is a ‘new’ beginning on new pitches, however, this does not proceed the same way we heard it the first time because another set of two groups of 3 interrupt the motive and propel the flute line into a syncopated, extreme interval idea.

One more time we get a ‘new’ beginning, this time a half step higher than the last (m. 11) and now the roles are reverse where the flute is playing the 2 while the piano has 3.

We get more intervals mixed in with short 2 bar snippets of the transposed opening motive before our first set of sixteenth notes ascends to the climax of the opening which falls down with syncopations into the Piu Tranquillo. The piano is back to playing 2s (more of a 6/8) while the flute is playing in 3/4 on a single note that is syncopated, maintaining that conversational element from the very opening of the section.

B: Vivace / Half = Dotted Half (m. 44-153)

This next section is interesting, mostly because of the Half = Dotted Half section which is simultaneously stable and unstable. At first glance it may seem odd to roll that section into B however it juxtaposes the section to create this contrast to the high energy; the calmness/song-like line of the Half = Dotted Half is like a delayed echo to the abundance of material the Vivace throws at us. This echo is reinforced too, by m. 147-148, which is a transposed version of the Vivace‘s m. 62-63.

Both the tempo and rhythm contrast the opening A section. The tempo increase is initiated by the piano and then the flute spring boards with new (small unit) rhythms. Compared to the A section which heavily used eighth notes, the B section as sixteenths and an abundance of triplet figures.

The Half = Dotted Half section may seem calm (notated ‘dolce cantabile’) compared to the first half of the B section; however the 2 over 3 (flute in 2/4 and piano in 3/4) is just a small sample of Martin playing with polyrhythms.

And the B section ends with a return to the primary material – the eighths [rest] sixteenth figure – that leaps to the high E6.

Cadenza (m. 154-193)

The cadenza restates the resonant E octave leap that ended the B section. A similar style reminiscent of the A section is recycled in the initial ‘moderato’ – this time playing with the interval of a half step reinforced as a sort of palindrome (reinforcing the mirror analogy).

This introduction intensifies and then suddenly steps back at the second ‘moderato’ with a contrasting piano dynamic a tritone lower than the opening E6. This new section is a sort of ‘haze’ or smoke and mirrors – at least in a tonal sense – as Martin reinforces the pedal Ab as well as (one half step down) G while altering the subsequent pitches. The pitches held on fermatas may indicate some type of stabilizing the tonal center, however, it is an illusion – as Martin does not feature one area for too long. One of these illusions is the recurring A – C – F:

As you can see from the score, this instances are fleeting.

C: Lento / Con moto (m. 194-272)

If you thought Martin may finally resolve to F… you’d be close, he choses to start the Lento on F#… but then of course if you refer to the piano score he writes a G# (a M2) to shatter any tonal security.

This is all new material both the Lento and Con moto contrast everything from the A and B sections by providing a moment of stasis in the music; and this works – or at least is able to hold interest – because of the diverse array of pitches he is using in the flute and piano lines. And corresponding, once the tonal center is more stable, Martin returns (briefly) to the A material where he expands the eighth note patterns in several ways (1) articulation patterns (2) intervals and (3) rests/syncopations.

This section ends with lively triplets (used in a different way than they have been in the B section) as they are constant, in a chromatic pattern rolling upwards to a high C7 on the downbeat of the Presto.

B’: Presto / Molto Vivace (m. 273-323)

The piano responds to the high energy, before scaling back and bringing us around to the reflection of the mirror B’ or the Molto vivace.

The first difference is the flute entrance in m. 287-290 on the tied notes and with the graces. Then, Martin alters the articulation pattern for the triplets and abridges the pattern so that the climax arrives at the peak of the energy of the triplet section.

And this climax is amazingly simple – just B Bb and A – in different rhythms.

A’: Meno mosso / Presto (m. 324-358)

Finally, the B Bb A resolves to a G# continuing the downward half step trajectory; and after a brief sequence, the introductory theme comes back in a new ‘key’ with the transformative elements from the C section of articulation and intervals. In the ‘animando’ Martin blends the triplets from the B section into the texture continuing to play with intervals. Again, we see the tritone – Ab to D this time.


What do you think of the Ballade? My recital will have a live premiere on Sunday April 18th at 5PM – feel free to stop in to hear the Ballade which is on the first half of the program!

For information on the composer, Sergei Prokofiev, and the general overview of the entire flute sonata (Op. 94) you should check out my analysis of the first movement before reading through the analysis of this movement. Understanding the background – including the conditions – Prokofiev was writing under will help inform the analysis of this movement:

IV. Allegro con brio (♩=112)

This is the final movement of the sonata, and comparatively has much more diverse and virtuosic material. The general form is a rondo (which can be more specifically narrowed down to Sonata Rondo form) which I’ll break down more in depth later. The main characteristic of a rondo is the repetition and recycling of the ‘A’ material. Generally speaking, a rondo in its most simple layout can be reduced to ABACA. The development of the ‘A’ section is up to the composer and in this case Prokofiev demands more virtuosity from the performer with each recap of the ‘A’ section.

Let’s compare what sonata rondo form looks like (generally) as well as how Prokofiev adapts this form in the fourth movement:

The top is the model for sonata rondo form; and the bottom is how Prokofiev adapts it – purple = key, dark grey = section, green – cadence, light grey – connection to sonata form

The key difference between these two models if Prokofiev’s repetition of the A and B before the C section is stated. However, remember that in Sonata form the Exposition can be repeated; sometimes you may see this when the length of the exposition is shorter than the combined development and recapitulation. I regard Prokofiev’s decision to include the A’ and B’ sections before the ‘development’ or C was used to this effect especially considering the slowness/major character shift that makes the C section feel much longer than the lively allegro ‘A’ section we hear interspersed throughout the fourth movement.

To make sense of what we are seeing in the diagrams let’s break down what defines each section – in particular look at the model for Prokofiev’s adaptation in dark grey we see one of the links to sonata form is the use of sections with the A and B parts: primary (1) theme, transitional theme, secondary (2) theme, and closing theme.


‘Exposition’ – A: primary and transitional themes

The first theme spans m. 1-16 and is in DM (both the first movement and fourth movement are centered around the same tonic, D). It is characterized by a pickup of four 32nd notes that has an upbeat, lively rhythm such as the arpeggiated 16th note triplets – as well as the other 16th triplet figures – eighths and embellishments (such as the one 16th two 32nds and the dotted eighth sixteenth).

While the opening is in DM, 6 measures in the theme is transposed down a whole step into C – however, Prokofiev quickly takes a detour in m. 8 (the 3rd bar of the transposition) which takes us to this G#-G-G# 16th triplet figure. He does so route us back to D Major; in m. 9 we are still in C, but by oscillating between G-G# he is able to fill in the Major 2nd (a whole step) back to D as he finally does in m. 12 on beat 3. He gives as an exact copy of the opening theme to springboard us into the transitional theme.

The transitional theme spans m. 17-29, still in DM and ends with a HC – AM (V). This theme presents a new rhythm with the driving 16th notes especially in the ta di-mi rhythm on a low D4 which appears first in m. 17 and then again in m. 21.

We also see a return of the 16th triplets.

And we see ambiguity to the tonal center. In m. 25 Prokofiev begins his DbM arpeggios on sixteenth notes, by m. 27 we have some dm arpeggios, and then a sequence of descending Major and minor 3rds which end with the half cadence on A.


‘Exposition’ – B: secondary and closing themes

The secondary theme spans m. 35-39 and is in AM (with some tonicizing of the new dominant E). This theme is completely new material the syncopated rhythm (SLS) with large intervals and arpeggiated grace notes.

The closing theme is a bit of a misnomer since similar to the primary theme it does a recap that is reminiscent of ternary form. This theme spans m. 40-53 and starts in f#m (the relative minor to A) and ends in AM. There are steady eighth notes with four 16th notes that pickup into the next phrase group.

We can establish the f# more solidly when we consult the piano score:


Repetition of the Exposition – A’ and B’

Prokofiev made the choice to extend the ‘exposition’ of this sonata rondo form with truncated versions of the primary theme, transitional theme, and secondary/closing theme.

What is absent from A’? The D Major 16th triplet arpeggio in m. 60 into 61 is in a bar of 2/4 (NOT 4/4) and does not take us into C as the opening did. We are taken directly to the transitional material sans the grace not flourishing, this version goes straight into the 16th triplets, DbM arpeggios, and descending 3rds.

And what about B’? There is just one subtle difference in the flute material which is the final sixteenth of m. 71 being changed to a G-natural (originally a G3) as the flute transitions down to F rather than up to A.

The transition into the development is set up by the piano’s eighths that establish the new key – originally the piano is giving us downbeat Fs in the left hand before leaning into the instability with first inversions (A-C-F) with A being the lowest note in both hands.


‘Development’ – C

The material being ‘developed’ is very clearly the material from the B theme – characterized by the steady eighths and the group of 4 pickups – Prokofiev uses various techniques to make the theme more robust/complex such as varying rhythms, new tonal areas, and adding piano interjections.

There can be many arguments made for what Prokofiev is tonicizing/modulating in this development however there are pillars that I think are solid (and would generally be recognized) these are as follows:

  • F – m. 87
  • Ab – m.107
  • F# – m. 116

In the diagram at the top of the post, I gave some further tonal areas that I believe Prokofiev plays around with:

  • F – m. 72-86
  • (C) as the dominant of F there are short motives interspersed throughout the C section
    • m. 87-89
  • g which is the dominant of c, with a lowered 3rd… however this could be argued to be an extension of the C/dominant
    • m. 90-91
  • A – a whole step up from g, as well as, the 3rd of F
    • m. 92-94 – plus the pedal C is used to modulate into other tonal areas with that common note
  • (C) again m. 95-97
  • And a combo of both C and G (the dominant and secondary dominant)
    • m. 104-106
  • Ab – m. 107-110
  • Db – the predominant which is leading us up to when Prokofiev changes the key to reflect D (however he is using it in it’s parallel minor b)
    • m. 111-112
  • F# (mostly likely being used a dominant within bm to end in a HC before the recapitulation)
    • From key change to bm, F# is already being established as the dominant m. 113-121

‘Recapitulation’ – A” B” A”’

When A” is restated there is a demand for more virtuosity – the sections of the primary theme are transposed up an octave. Likewise parts of the transitional theme are transposed down an octave. Rather than ending solidly there is a slow quarter note ascension to the secondary theme in the tonic (D Major). A” spans m. 120-143.

As per sonata form, the recapitulation is solidly in the tonic/home key (both A and B sections, whereas in the exposition the B section is a new tonal area). That being said, B” presents the secondary/closing theme in D major – transposed up a m6. Prokofiev also switches up the order that he presents this material: rather than starting with the syncopations and grace note arpeggios, he starts with the steady eighths and pickup four 16ths and THEN goes to the syncopation and arpeggiated graces in DM. B” spans m. 145-160.

The final statement of A”’ begins in m. 161; has a fake out opening that like A” is partially transposed up the octave before repeating and moving into completely new material that is mainly flashy flourishes to demonstarte ultimate virtuosity.


What do you think of this final movement? And what do you think of the Sonata as a whole? Let me know in the comments!

For information on the composer, Sergei Prokofiev, and the general overview of the entire flute sonata (Op. 94) you should check out my analysis of the first movement before reading through the analysis of this movement. Understanding the background – including the conditions – Prokofiev was writing under will help inform the analysis of this movement:

II. Allegretto scherzando (Dotted Half = 69)

The suggested tempo is included in the G. Schirmer 1965 edition. The text “allegretto scherzando” roughly translates to fairly brisk and playful (or joking). The form of the second movement is ternary (ABA or ABA’) form which has some connection to a scherzo (a major scherzo of note for flutists is Mendelssohn’s Scherzo in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) which is in rounded binary form (AABA) with a ‘trio’ section that follows the recap of the A form.


A – mm. 1-161

The key feature in this movement is Prokofiev’s use of hemiolas. As far as the Grove Music dictionary is concerned a hemiola, “in the modern metrical system denotes the articulation of two units of triple metre as if they were notated as three units of duple metre.” More info on this term can be accessed here.

The motive that the flute first plays in the A section is an example of a hemiola:

Note the duple notation (duple = 2), but slurred as if they were triplets (3). As mentioned, this opening motive in the flute is prominent throughout the second movement: we see it transposed up a Perfect 5th in measure 15, down a Perfect 5th in measure 34; and we see echoes of it throughout later parts of the movement as the initial A section closes, as well as when the A’ section recaps.

In the primary A section we expect to see multiple phrases, an established tonic key, and an end with a PAC (typically in the tonic):

Multiple Phrases

There is no shortage of phrase variance in this section.

The first section that we see (amid several transpositions) is the hemiola phrase, which is characterized by the constant eighth notes. Each time this phrase appears the dynamic is marked piano and peaks at a mezzo forte. This section lasts from mm. 1-58.

The next phrase section is the sixteenth notes. The repeated figure “C-D-Eb-F Gb-Ab-Bb-C D-Eb-E-F” is accompanied by the piano playing Gb-Eb-Bb (which would be some borrowed chord, not quiet a Neapolitan because it is minor rather than Major) – perhaps it is simply put to be the tritone juxtaposing a minor (a to eb as a diminished 5th)?

Either way, this section is fleeting and promptly resolves to F Major – mm. 59-76.

The third section is interesting because unlike the first two which had very clear features, this one has a several elements. The first being the leaps/skips (the 1st and 2nd phrases were both stepwise) and particularly the use of the Perfect 4th followed by a Perfect 5th. Then following this with a dotted quarter to driving eighths. This section lasts mm. 77-102.

The fourth section could be lumped in with the third, however, I see the key change and addition of a new rhythmic figure (the triplet) as one of two possibilities: (1) a brief extension that is stretching the phrase to the return of the first phrase OR (2) a variation of phrase 3. Either way there are recognizable similarities between the 3rd and 4th phrases – take for example, mm. 107-112 and compare it to mm. 87-92.

Key/Establishing a Tonal Center

Considering how Prokofiev plays with intervals in this movement, the tonal center is relatively ambiguous – especially if one was to just regard the opening 6 bars of just the piano alone.

However, given the opening motive the tentative tonic is a minor, however as soon as Prokofiev has moved out of the hemiolas he begins to explore F Major and its relative minor (d minor). What’s interesting here (for all you advanced theory nerds) is that these are the notes of a d minor arpeggio: a (5), F (3), and d (1) which would be the parallel minor of the first movement set in D Major. How neat!

For simplicity’s sake I will refer to the section by key rather than scale degree, but the d minor arpeggio relation is an interesting avenue, perhaps to explore the next time you work through this movement.

We see the movement towards F Major punctuated by the octaves F’s in measures 75-76. The references to d minor are more apparent in the piano score, for example before the flute has the sixteenth note runs, the piano (mm. 58-61) plays an inverted d minor arpeggio d(1) a(5) f(3).

Ending with a cadence (PAC?)

There is the brief key change to c minor, however, as discussed in the section on phrases, it is more or less an extension or variation used to cycle back to the first phrase. By m. 123 the d minor version of the first phrase is back. The punctuation of the A’s in mm. 153-155 is a versatile choice on Prokofiev’s part as this can either be regarded as the 5th of d minor or the 3rd of F Major. The ambiguity is all part of the game – given the context of writing during Socialist Realism in Soviet Russia – Prokofiev could easily claim either to be the case, whichever put him a favorable light. As far as a PAC is concerned, I see the As as an IAC in d minor, however, I have seen other scholars regard it as the same but in F Major. To support my argument for d minor I point towards the use of C# and F#s which allude to the parallel Major – perhaps forecasting the key change that will begin the B section. Futhermore, I see the transition from F Major to D Major – not impossible, but the chord functions during the transition “o, m, o, m2, m3” given the context of the piano score which allude much more to minor tonalities than Major.


B – mm. 162-227

Contrast is a fairly simple concept to understand in music theory. Opposites are a general concept that can be transferred from daily life (ie. Day and Night) which in music theory can translate to A and B sections. The B section is noticeably different than the A section, here’s what to look for: key the new key is usually related either the parallel Major/minor; this section ends with a PAC or HC; and there may be a short bridge that leads into the recap of A.

The most noticeable contrast between the B and A sections in this movement is the way Prokofiev alters the meter! Notice how the B section is in 2/2 while the A section is always in 3/4.

New Key

Tracing back to the end of the A section, my argument for the cadence being an IAC in d minor fits neatly since the B section is starting in the parallel Major – D Major. The key signature makes this key transition abundantly clear, as well as the opening statement start with an inverted D Major arpeggio.

Okay, hold on for this wild journey of keys/interval-play that I am about to suggest – with the knowledge that most of these transitions would be intervallically motivated (whether that is pushing the boundaries with something as ‘offensive’ as a tritone or maintain a Major quality to mask the deviation from traditional chord progressions).

There is a notated key change in measure 174 (removing the C# and F#s). Looking at the notated figure of a quarter triplet and two quarters – one could guess we have returned to a minor… there is after all an A being sustained in the piano mm. 174-176. However, isolating the arpeggio in m. 174 it appears to be two arpeggios combined a d minor with an inverted G Major (A-F-D-B-G-D). Prokofiev continues to play with that Perfect 4th (D to G) with the running sixteenths m. 177 and m. 181. However, keep in mind we are still technically in ‘a minor’ therefore at m. 182 we see an immediate shift to E Major (G#-B-E) because it is a the Dominant (V) in a minor. This is followed by a bm – g#m. Which is similar to the A section and how it brings out the d – f – a of d minor, this brief tonicization of the Dominant is bringing out E – B – G#.

By m. 190 the key of D Major returns… only for a short while. With a nod to the E Major, mm. 194-195, as well a a minor, the C# and F#s are quickly removed from the key yet again in m. 202. And this is where we begin to see the bridge back to A/A’.

Bridge

The bridge out of the B section and back to the return of A is punctuated by the time signature change to 3/4, a return to the triple feel, while still closing out the motifs and tonal exploration featured in this contrasting section. This bridge spans mm. 208-227.

The piano part while the flute is playing the espressivo phrase and resting (mm. 212-227) is particularly of note tonally speaking. The inverted arpeggio running under the espressivo section is a bo (b diminished) arpeggio. Once the piano is alone this shifts into an alternating AM – C7. Again, an interesting (and safe) choice because these are common chords (although the quality varies) from D Major/minor and F Major.

Cadence (PAC or HC?)

This section is more or less ending with a Half Cadence. Although not a formal HC, the same function is present here…

A traditional HC is something ending with a V (Dominant). However, V is not the only Dominant function, VII can (on occasion) take the place of a V in a cadence. Nothing about this cadence is screaming authentic cadence (IAC or PAC), there is no tonic function in sight (this could be a i/I and occasionally a VI/vi).

If the piano bridge is considered to be in dm/DM there are two dominants AM (V) and C7 (VII7)… also if we really (and I mean reallllly) wanted to push for FM we could call the C7 the V7/III. Either way you spin it not tonic functions to be seen, especially with the seventh chord, therefore, definitely HC!


A/A’ – m. 228-370

Finally, a return to familiar material! This final section has a few key features: it can be varied (hence A’), it will start and end in the tonic, and ends with a PAC.

Variations: A versus A’

For the most part, this return is an exact copy of the initial A section. The flute line follows the A section to a T mm. 228-333 (the counterpart being mm. 7-112).

The first time this section deviates starts m. 335 with the descending eighth note figure. There is a new rhythmic figure (the sixteenth triplets) which allude to the ones featured in the first movement of the Op. 94 Sonata. Then, Prokofiev quotes the 3rd phrase from the A section before starting the 1st phrase… offset by one beat; and he interjects this with a hemiola-ified (adding ties to) another quote from the 3rd phrase before finishing with the 1st phrase, and a frenzied eighth pattern that ascends to the climatic C7.

Final Cadence – PAC?

If only… again it’s more of an IAC. But a very interesting feature in the Schirmer 1965 edition is that it includes the alternate violin part which ends differently!

Of course both endings are considered IAC if we are to consider the tonal center to be a minor: the flute’s C is the 3rd scale degree and the violin’s E is the 5th scale degree.


I had a lot of fun with this movement – the ambiguity lends itself to a lot of theorizing (within set Music Theory ha!) so I got a chance to explore questions I had about the score. Anything you noticed in this movement that I missed?

  • Francis Poulenc – Sonata for Flute and Piano

The challenge with this piece has been playing what’s on the page versus playing in a stylized manner (as many recordings of this piece often exemplify). The technical elements such as the sept-tuplets, 32nd note pickups, or double tonguing in the 1st movement require a practice approach that will make the end result sound seamless or effortless.


  • Sergei Prokofiev – Sonata in D op. 94

This edition includes both the violin transcription along with the flute line – being aware that there are variations (and other editions of the piece) was really important when studying and listening to the piece before practicing. The infamous D7s are just one of the challenges this piece presents where the goal is for them to blend into the ascending arpeggio pattern.


  • Katherine Hoover – Kokopeli for solo flute

With no indicated meter and no accompaniment the challenge with this piece is maintaining rhythmic values. As well as keeping an active ear for intonation, especially on repeated pitches. And finally keeping a sharp eye on the accidentals since they do not carry through the octave. Despite these initial challenges, the phrasing and overall mood of the piece drive the player to overcome these visual hurdles.


  • W.A. Mozart – Concerto in D Major for flute (K. 314)

Mozart has 2 concertos for flute – one in G Major and this one, in D Major (which is really just a re-voicing of the oboe concerto in C). This Barenreiter edition is great for analysis and understand the solo flute’s role – it includes the principal flute part, piano score, suggested cadenzas, and a reference score.


What is on your stand this month?