Chopin's Piano Sonata in B Flat Minor Opus 35 - Compositional background



other of his compositions was designated as such (the Funeral March in C minor from 1829), he incorporated elements of the funeral march into several of his other works. Examples of this can be seen in the introduction to the F Minor Fantasy Opus 49, the C Minor Prelude from Opus 28 as well as various nocturnes such as Opus 48 No 1.


In most sonatas from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the funeral march, if used instead of an adagio, would be employed as the second movement, with the scherzo as the third movement. In this sonata, however, those positions are reversed, as is the case with Beethoven's piano sonata in A flat Major opus 26, one of Chopin's favourite works. Leiken's reasoning for this is that since the first movement of opus 26 is a relatively slow theme-and-variations, it seems only logical to insert the scherzo before the funeral march in order to introduce tempo contrasts between movements.[12] Although the first movement of Chopin's B flat Minor sonata is fast and basically in sonata form, this did not prevent Chopin from following Beethoven's plan. In addition, Vladimir Protopopov highlights the fact that all of Chopin's four-part cyclic works contain a scherzo or minuet as the second movement.[13]


The single documented report of Chopin's own performance of the B flat Minor Sonata around this time was when Moscheles visited Chopin in Paris in October 1839, shortly after the completion of the work. Moscheles was complimentary about Chopin's work, proclaiming that only after hearing Chopin "...did I now for the first time understand his music, and all the raptures of the lady world become intelligible."[14]


It is interesting to note that no record exists of Clara Schumann playing the opus 35 sonata, in spite of the fact that she played both Chopin's concertos and many other of his works.[15] Chechlinska notes that Chopin's sonatas in general were performed extremely rarely, both in Poland and throughout Europe.[16] The first complete performance of the Sonata in B minor was reported only in 1866, more than twenty


[12] ibid., p. 161.

[13] Protopopov, Vladimir. 'Forma Cyklu Sonatowego w utworach F. Chopina,' in Polsko-rogyjskie miscellanea muzyczne (1968), p. 128.

[14] Newman, William S. The Sonata Since Beethoven (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1972), p. 491.

[15] ibid., p. 493.

[16] Chechlinska, Zofia. 'Chopin Reception in Nineteenth-Century Poland,' The Cambridge Companion to Chopin, ed. Samson, J. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 213.


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