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



This last comment echoes Arthur Hedley's objection to comparing Chopin's opus 35 to the "textbook" sonata form. Samson notes that the sonata was "...cultivated with greatest energy in Austro-Germany," which led to attempts to codify sonata compositional principles, "...with implications for pedagogy, criticism and indeed creative process which were not always beneficial."[77] He cites the Russian symphony as an example, stating that it was viewed as an "...unhappy deviation from, rather than a potentially exciting collaboration with, German symphonism."[78] He maintains that although a combination of aspects of the symphonic tradition with indigenous thematic material and formal treatments did occasionally lead to undesirable results, the music should be judged in relation to its aims and ideals.


Samson reinforced this view in his 1996 Chopin, in which he states that Chopin's modelling of his opus 35 on Beethoven's opus 26 was a response to classical precedent, and that this precedent placed exceptional pressures on the work.[79] Samson suggests that the formal expectations of the Classical sonata were bound to remain unfulfilled in opus 35, as Chopin was trying to create effectively a new kind of sonata, albeit based on the old. This ties in with Chopin's role in the evolution of the sonata, which will be examined in Chapter Six.


Anatoly Leiken echoes Samson's contention that unnecessary "exceptional pressures" were placed on opus 35. He observes that the Romantic period saw a significant decline in the number of sonatas being written per composer. Mozart wrote seventy and Beethoven fifty-five, yet Chopin wrote five, Schumann eight, and Liszt only two. Leiken does not interpret this as the Romantic composers' loss of interest in the sonata, but rather as a reflection of their unease at attempting to reach the Olympian feats of the sonatas of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. He reckons that although the Romantic sonata differs in many respects from the Classical sonata, one should not assume that these changes are for the worse. Rather, they should be viewed as a "...strong urge to renovate a form that had been around for many decades, to make it more spontaneous and less predictable."[80] It should be mentioned, however, that the


[77] ibid., p. 128.

[78] ibid., p. 128.

[79] Samson, Jim. Chopin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 210.

[80] Leiken, Anatoly. 'The Sonatas,' The Cambridge Companion to Chopin ed. Samson, J. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 160.


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