It was Liszt who found the Ballade pour piano seul
(1879) ‘too difficult’, referring to the version for solo piano before its later transformation in a more popular and lucid version for piano and orchestra. Presumably he meant that the writing was intricate without being virtuosic, that the material was too fragile and exquisite for public consumption. Even Liszt, a dazzlingly perceptive and generous critic, must have been baffled by the presence of so many difficulties in a piece unlikely to win prolonged plaudits. Meanwhile Debussy’s dismissal of the Ballade as ‘about as erotic as a woman’s loose shoulder-strap’ says more about his own insecurity than about one of Fauré’s most charming pieces: a reminder of halcyon, half-remembered summer days and bird-haunted forests.
from notes by Bryce Morrison © 1995