Chopin's Piano Sonata in B Flat Minor Opus 35 - Late 19th & Early 20th reception



justification for his reasoning, Niecks offers the better opinion of the two, simply on the grounds that Willeby oversimplifies the concepts of "abstract" and "programme" music in general. In all probability, there is also no means of substantiating Willeby's assertion that Chopin's musical ideas were not subordinate to the form in which they were employed.


Edgar Kelley is at odds with Willeby's stand on subordination of musical material with regard to Chopin's sonatas in general. He writes:


Chopin was not the only composer who seemed to be obsessed with the idea that, just as the fugue-subject must comply with a long series of limitations before it is fugue-worthy, so must a sonata-theme conform to certain requirements respecting shape and size. This explains why Chopin, when writing in the specifically classical forms, employed themes that are classical rather than Chopinesque, melodic rather than harmonic; which may be easily grasped by the hands with little or no extension, and which, in their development, run along the old highway instead of in the new, bold path he had blazed in the Romantic forest.[39]


Kelley did feel, however, that the only case where the use of "classical themes" did not apply was to that of the second piano sonata in particular:


Even in the more mature Sonata Op. 58 we are conscious, in the first few measures, of classical influence, but the composer soon frees himself. In the Sonata in B Flat Minor, Op. 35, we find no lingering survivals of the classical sonata-themes, although throughout the entire work the spirit of that form is manifest.[40]


This specific case is, therefore, partly in agreement with Willeby's proposition that Chopin's imagination and musical ideas preceded his attention to form. However, Kelley's statement is somewhat contradictory, as it implies that although Chopin did not employ "classical sonata-themes" in his sonata opus 35, they were conceived within the framework of sonata form structure. The analyses of opus 35 surveyed in


[39] Kelley, Edgar. Chopin The Composer: His Structural Art and its Influence on Contemporaneous Music (New York: G. Schirmer, 1913), p. 153.

[40] ibid., p. 153.


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