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


Analyses by various commentators such as Leichtentritt, Réti, Walker, and Leiken provide much useful information on Chopin's compositional style inasmuch as it is connected to the sonata. These analyses are responsible for a general trend of increasingly favourable reception of Chopin's sonatas in general, especially over the last half-century. It is advantageous, however, to examine briefly the state of the sonata in the nineteenth century (referred to as the "Romantic sonata" by William Newman) in order that Chopin's style of sonata composition can be placed in perspective. A short investigation into the evolution of Chopin's sonata style from his early opus 4 to the late opus 65 will also be conducted. While these endeavours cannot prove or disprove the validity of Schumann's comments, they may shed light on the possible reasons why Chopin intentionally or unintentionally chose to compose a sonata as controversial as opus 35.


William Newman's 1972 work The Sonata Since Beethoven from his monumental three-volume A History of the Sonata Idea provides a detailed study of the term "Romantic sonata" as well as a history of the origin of the terms "sonata" and "sonata form". He begins by looking at Romantic views of the sonata, whether as a title, a particular form or an aesthetic problem. He emphasises the importance of the transition, by the mid-nineteenth century, "...from a loose, casual concept of a free, even a fantasy, form to a tight, fixed concept of a highly specific form, specific enough to crystallise in the textbooks and even to become a criterion by which sonatas soon were evaluated."[86]


According to Newman, few theorists had "...shown more than a hazy recognition of 'sonata form' during the Classic Era and up to the late 1830's."[87]; only two to three dozen definitions and explanations can be found in writings from the Classical era.[88]


[86] Newman, William S. The Sonata Since Beethoven (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1972), p. 27.

[87] ibid., p. 31.

[88] Newman, William S. The Sonata in the Classic Era (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1963), p.21.


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