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








The post-Leichtentritt writings on Chopin's B Flat Minor sonata exhibit a definite change in reception. Although those from the 1930s were still quite negative, by the 1940s most theorists showed a change in reception of the sonata. This led to the general acknowledgement that Chopin's sonatas opus 35 and opus 58 could be counted among his greatest compositions, which is a far cry from the oft-repeated nineteenth-century reservation that Chopin was not able to master the large-scale forms.


The influential Chopin scholar Arthur Hedley opposed the act of subjecting Chopin's sonata opus 35 to tests of adherence to "textbook" sonata form. In writings from 1947, he argues that "...an exaggerated respect for the letter of the law governing the mythical 'true sonata form' (an invention of the lecture-room rather than of the composer's workshop) has been the cause of much injustice to the two Sonatas, in B Flat Minor and B Minor, of whose 'wrongness' quasi-mathematical proof is to be found in some text-books."[58] He continues by stating that although these sonatas are not above the law, it is important to discover what law Chopin was attempting to conform with, before deciding that the work "cannot be good, since it does not agree with the principles laid down by Herr Professor X in 1825."[59]


Hedley believed that because of the fact that Chopin chose to do in 1844 in the B Minor Sonata what he had done in 1839 in the first movement of Opus 35, he intended to write the sonatas in a way that best suited him i.e., using "...long lyrical or dramatic periods rather than the closely reasoned development of short, pregnant themes."[60] Hedley maintained that this did not imply that Chopin should have left


[58] Hedley, Arthur. The Master Musicians: Chopin, revd. Brown, M.J.E. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1974), p. 157. It should also be noted that in 1921 Leichtentritt offered quasi-mathematical proof of the sonata's 'rightness' in his analyses of Chopin's piano works (see Chapter Seven).

[59] ibid., p. 157.

[60] ibid., p. 157.


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