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



examined in due course. This highlights the fact that the improvement in standing of Chopin's opus 35 is as a result of a more analytical approach to the work.


Another writer who opposed the negative appraisal of opus 35 at the turn of the century was G.C. Ashton Jonson. He believed that the partial quotation of Schumann's critique resulted in a misunderstanding of Schumann's view of the work.

He maintains that "Schumann never meant to say that these four wildest children were not related and were only bound together fortuitously; it is calling the work a Sonata that he describes as a jest, not the juxtaposition of the four movements."[29] On Schumann's comments with regard to the finale, Jonson maintains that "...it must be heard in its right place at the end of this so-called Sonata, which is not a Sonata in the classic sense, but is an organic and indivisible whole, a tone poem, a reading of life on earth, even such a life as that of Chopin himself."[30]


Franz Liszt is also credited with writing a paragraph on opus 35 in 1851.[31] In typically poetic vein, Liszt praised the sonata's beauty, but showed his reservation as to whether Chopin felt comfortable with large-scale forms. He writes:


Not content with success in the field in which he was free to design, with such perfect grace, the contours chosen by himself, Chopin also wished to fetter his ideal thoughts with classic chains. His Concertos and Sonatas are beautiful indeed, but we may discern in them more effort than inspiration. His creative genius was imperious, fantastic and impulsive. His beauties were only manifested fully in entire freedom. We believe he offered violence to the character of his genius whenever he sought to subject it to rules, to classifications, to regulations not his own, and which he could not force into harmony with the exactions of his own mind. He was one of those original beings, whose graces are only fully displayed when they have cut themselves adrift from all bondage, and float on their own wild will, swayed only by the ever undulating impulses of their own mobile natures.[32]



[29] Jonson, G.C. Ashton. A Handbook to Chopin's Works (London: William Reeves, 1905), p. 199.

[30] ibid., p. 200.

[31] Newman, William S. The Sonata Since Beethoven (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1972), p. 490.

[32] Liszt, Franz. Life of Chopin, tr. Cook, M.W. (New York: Leypoldt & Holt, 1866), p. 23.


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