Chopin's Piano Sonata in B Flat Minor Opus 35 - Late reception 1940-1996



the third and fourth movements of opus 35 that troubled Schumann most, and yet theorists until that time had written little about these movements in a "typical" sonata. Why, then, should Chopin's funeral march and finale of opus 35 have evoked such criticism, given that the sonata cycle was still an evolving genre not yet described in great detail in theoretical works? An answer might be that their content was not the norm of the day, yet how can a form develop and evolve if the norm is continually used?


At this point, a general discussion of Romantic era opinions relating to the sonata would be useful in highlighting other possible reasons for the emergence of a sonata of the form of Chopin's opus 35. It is a known fact that throughout the Romantic era "there was a stream of pessimistic opinions to the effect that the sonata had already or would soon come to its end."[100] According to Newman, the number of sonatas being composed declined precipitously in the 1830's.[101] By the 1850's a rise in interest in the sonata was once again evident, although pessimistic opinions regarding the status and prognosis of the sonata outnumbered the optimistic ones.


Examples of such negative opinions are in abundance. Newman mentions an 1832 review of Pio Cianchettini's Opus 26 begins: "A sonata once more!-The newest fashions after all are but old ones forgotten and revived...."[102] Schumann's view on the subject from 1839 is particularly interesting:


Strange that suddenly there are mostly unknowns who are writing sonatas... It is easy to guess what moves the former, mostly young artists. There is no worthier form by which they might introduce and ingratiate themselves [better] in the eyes of the finer critics. But in consequence most sonatas of this sort can be considered only as a kind of testing grounds, as studies in form. They are scarcely born out of a strong inner compulsion... Occasional lovely manifestations of this sort are sure to appear here and there, and [some] already have done so. But otherwise it seems the form has run its course, and this [drop-off] is certainly in the order of things, and [what is more] we should not have to repeat the same [form] year after year and at the same time deliberate over the new. So


[100] ibid., p. 37.

[101] ibid., p. 84.

[102] ibid., p. 37.


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