Chopin's Piano Sonata in B Flat Minor Opus 35 - Initial Reception



writings on the subject. Other critics often referred to Schumann when presenting their views on opus 35; many agreed with him, others questioned his opinions, while some even tried to read between the lines and offer different interpretations of his critique. Seeing that this review had such far-reaching consequences as far as the reception of the B flat Minor sonata is concerned, the complete review, translated from the original German, has been included in this dissertation, as Appendix A.


Reading Schumann's critique, it can be concluded that, on a general level, he had the following reservations about opus 35:


1)      The binding together of four such different pieces under the title "sonata" is problematic, especially with respect to the fact that the last two movements have little to do with the first two. No organic or thematic unity seems to exist between the four movements. With reference to this comment, it might be added that the concept of "unity" is a very broad one, and, to use the words of Jim Samson, "a highly problematic notion in music."[22] There are various methods of uncovering the unity of a work; thematic unity between movements is but one of these methods.

2)      Chopin was not comfortable in his use of sonata form.

3)      The March does not belong to the rest of the work; rather, an adagio would have been more suitable.

4)      The finale is more mockery than music.

5)      The use of unusual harmonic devices, such as arbitrary and wild chord writing as well as excessive dissonance, makes the large-scale structure unclear.


At this point one could question Schumann's astonishment at certain aspects of this work. Chopin was valued as an utterly original pianist and composer; the predominant view among critics in Poland for most of the nineteenth century was that Chopin's music was of such a far-reaching originality that it showed no connections with the work of anyone else.[23] Surely, then, if this "far-reaching" originality is what shapes Chopin's music, why was this work singled out on account of a short finale and a


[22] Samson, Jim. The Music of Chopin (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985),p. 129.

[23] Chechlinska, Zofia. 'Chopin Reception in Nineteenth-Century Poland,' The Cambridge Companion to Chopin, ed. Samson, J. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 210.



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