Grieg's Ballade has to be one of the most neglected near-masterpieces ever written. Why do I say a "near-masterpiece"? B/C up until the coda it contains some of his most poignant piano writing ever. Unfortunately, when the coda begins the music turns garish, with empty virtuoso rhetoric ruining what would have been one of Grieg's major masterpieces. But with the final closing measures of the piece (an almost identical repeat of the opening theme), the piece ends as beautifully as it began.
Still, it's a piece worth hearing, and in quite an evocative performance and recording such as this one by Andsnes, you almost overlook the music's shortcomings. I almost wish that Andsnes (or another composer) would re-write the ending just to keep the music on the same high level of inspiration.
I too was a bit disappointed that EMI decided to reissue previous material to supplement the time on this disc. As it is, the Ballade, spendidly played as it is, is the only truly new recording. Couldn't Andsnes have recorded something new?