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



supposed lack of unity? Was Chopin not adopting an original approach in the use of sonata form and the sonata cycle as a whole?


Moreover, another comment made by Schumann three years earlier seems to contradict his own view of Chopin's opus 35 sonata. He wrote: "I no longer think about form [as a mold to be filled?] when I compose; [instead] I create it [intuitively?]."[24] On this contradiction, Newman writes that "[y]et several times we shall find him calling attention to departures from what he regarded as standard sonata procedures, as in his review in 1841 of Chopin's 'Funeral March Sonata,' Op. 35."[25] One should view this comment as being highly significant; yet, of all the sources consulted, only Newman seems to have mentioned it. Schumann disregards the fact that Chopin may have done exactly what Schumann permitted himself to do - create a form.


Two years later, J.W. Davison expressed a view quite contrary to that of Schumann:

Perhaps one of the most extraordinary of all the works of Chopin, both on account of its exceeding originality, and its strangely fantastic structure is the grand SONATA, in the sullen and moody key of B Flat Minor. This wild and gloomy rhapsody is precisely fitted for a certain class of enthusiasts, who would absolutely revel in its phantasmagorial kaleidoscope... [A lengthy poem follows, depicting the author's image of the work.] Such are the impressions to which we are subject under the influence of this wonderful work - a very triumph of musical picturing - a conquest over what would seem it be unconquerable - viz. - the mingling of the physical and metaphysical in music - the sonata representing a dual picture - ...the battle of the actual elements and the conflict of human passions - the first for the multitude, the last for the initiated.[26]


This poetic description of the sonata was the usual manner of presenting a critical appreciation of a musical work at the time. Chechlinska notes that reviews of


[24] Newman, William S. The Sonata Since Beethoven (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1972), p. 34. Interpolations are Newman's. Unless otherwise stated, all interpolations are my own.

[25] ibid., p. 34.

[26] Davison, J.W. Essays on the Work of Frederic Chopin (London: Wessel and Co., 1843), p. 7.


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