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



validity of opus 35 being called a "sonata." In his monumental work Analyse der Chopin'schen Klavierwerke (1921-1922), he writes:


Strange to say, as far as I know, no one has yet noticed that the B Flat Minor Sonata is constructed in an extraordinarily subtle way that anticipates Liszt's and César Franck's "principe cyclique", that reveals a penetrating study of late Beethoven which one hardly expects from Chopin. So the last word on the two sonatas [opus 35 and opus 58] has by no means yet been said. They invite exhaustive study and repay this examination thoroughly as the following investigations will show.[47]


At this point, reference can be made to Jim Samson's view on the significance of Leichtentritt's analyses of Chopin's works. From 1850 onwards, in a project spanning some forty years, the German publisher Breitkopf and Härtel compiled collected editions of major composers. It was launched by editions of Bach and Handel (clearly viewed as the foundation stones of German music). The works of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Chopin soon followed. According to Samson, Chopin's inclusion is significant in that it was "tantamount to a form of adoption."[48] It confirmed him as "a sort of honorary member of the German tradition," a status further secured by the appearance of serious biographies by Adolf Weismann[49] and Bernard Scharlitt.[50] One of the cornerstones of this tradition was the music of the Viennese classics, which clearly made extensive use of the sonata and sonata form. Beethoven's thirty-two piano sonatas, acknowledged by many as the pinnacle of achievement in this genre, form a part of this select group of works. If the prevailing opinion was that Chopin was a master of miniature romantic forms, and not comfortable with writing sonatas and using sonata form, then why was he included in this exclusive German tradition? Moreover, if he was considered a failure with respect to his adoption of the large classical forms (a view accepted by various critics at the time), surely this alone would exclude him from that tradition, regardless of the quality of the remainder of his output? Yet, Chopin's works were included in the


[47] ibid., p. 210.

[48] Samson, Jim. 'Chopin Reception: Theory, History, Analysis,' Chopin Studies II ed. Samson, J., Rink, J. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 7.

[49] Weismann, Adolf Chopin (Leipzig, 1912).

[50] Scharlitt, Bernard. Chopin (Leipzig, 1919).


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