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Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Ballade in A Minor, Op. 33

Ballade in A Minor, Op. 33
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)


At the recommendation of Edward Elgar, the Three Choirs Festival commissioned Samuel Coleridge-Taylor to compose a work for their 1898 festival in Gloucester. He was twenty-three at the time. The result, his Ballade in A Minor, was received so enthusiastically that the composer took three ovations at its premiere. Coleridge-Taylor dedicated the Ballade to friend and mentor, A. J. Jaeger, who brought him to Elgar’s attention, praising his “Schubertian facility of invention.” Jaeger later told a colleague, “Keep your eye on the lad, and believe me, he is the man of the future in musical England.”

While Jaeger heard affinities with Schubert in Coleridge-Taylor’s music, others have also noted stylistic similarities with Brahms and Dvořák: Coleridge-Taylor’s composition teacher at the Royal College of Music was a fervent admirer of Brahms, and Coleridge-Taylor named Dvořák as his own “musical god.” Nonetheless, the Ballade displays Coleridge-Taylor’s own distinctive colorful orchestration, rhythmic verve, and melodic craft.

Throughout his career, Coleridge-Taylor increasingly used his unique musical language to explore his African heritage; these works include, among others, African Romances (settings of texts by the African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar), Four African Dances, and Symphonic Variations on an African Air. As Coleridge-Taylor stated in the introduction to his Twenty-Four Negro Melodies, “What Brahms has done for the Hungarian folk music, Dvořák for the Bohemian, and Grieg for the Norwegian, I have tried to do for these Negro melodies.” Like Dvořák, Coleridge-Taylor incorporated and stylized folk idioms and melodies with conventions of Western classical music to express his distinctive identity in music history.


  • The fiery opening replete with trills in the woodwinds—they state the forceful main theme that permeates the entire Ballade and is reiterated throughout by different instruments 
  • The lyrical secondary theme introduced in the strings, which showcases Coleridge-Taylor’s gifts for melody and orchestration—it comes to a climax as the strings soar above harmonies in the low brass


Two flutes, piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, strings