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









The second piano sonata, in B flat minor opus 35, of Frederic Chopin has long been the centre of controversy ever since Schumann's negative comments thereon became widely known.[1] This sonata is one of the most interesting, and perhaps most discussed, of all Chopin's works, and has often been cited as an example of Chopin's inability to cope with the large classical forms of the German tradition, especially by commentators writing around the turn of the twentieth century.


This view, however, slowly began to change. A few music theorists began to question Schumann's opinion that, inter alia, Chopin was not comfortable in his use of sonata form. They objected to the flurry of negative responses to this work; one even claimed that it was because of only one critic's proclamation that Chopin was not great enough to master sonata form, that scores of other critiques followed, repeating that same opinion ad nauseum. Those brave souls who opposed the norm were, it may be argued, eventually proved correct in their assumptions by various analyses that appeared in the twentieth century.


The purpose of this dissertation is twofold. Firstly, an overview of reception to this sonata will be conducted, quoting and presenting the opinions of various music critics, musicologists, pianists, and the like. Beginning with the famous comment by Schumann in 1841, right up to the present day, the writings of these people will be examined and critically evaluated. This will enable the identification of a receptive trend which, in turn, will be used to pinpoint the major turning point of change in reception and understanding of this sonata.


Secondly, this change in reception will need to be substantiated. This will be effected by study of the analyses of twentieth-century musicologists who attempt to disprove the unsubstantiated opinions of the earlier writers. These analyses range from the


[1] Schumann's critique of this sonata, dating from 1841, can be found in Appendix A.


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