Chopin's Piano Sonata in B Flat Minor Opus 35 - Recent Writings - Samson and Leiken



This idea that Chopin adapted his earlier achievements to the framework of the sonata can, to some extent, explain the unusual nature of the Finale. Chominski notes that comparing the Finale of opus 35 with the E Flat Major Prelude opus 28 no. 19 shows numerous similarities.[196] Both have a similar texture (i.e., a single line in triplet octaves); they are almost identical in length (75 and 71 bars respectively); and both end on a fortissimo chord. Although it may be true that the Prelude's triplets are more focused harmonically in that they provide support for the top-voice melody (which is not the case in the Finale of opus 35), the comparison can render the Finale less "futuristically athematic...without precedent in the history of the keyboard."[197]


As far as the first movement is concerned, Samson demonstrates that the external pattern of the movement respects the main sonata-form outline, save for the avoidance of a "double reprise" (which will be examined in due course).[198] He does, however, highlight the fact that the dynamic scheme is subtly different from that of the Classical sonata. In connection with the latter, he observes that the stark character contrast between the stormy first subject and the beautiful second subject of the Allegro of opus 35 intensifies such inclinations of the Classical sonata to the extent that they take precedence over tonal dialectic.[199] The result is a "romantic distance" between the two subjects rather than the classical ideal of polarity (which would ultimately demand a resolution).[200] With reference to the development, Samson notes that the necessary instability is created through shifting tonality and breaks in continuity, as is the case in many other sonatas. He maintains that the power of the main climax here is significantly large, and is made even greater by the intensity achieved through concentrated motivic working and the use of a three-tier stratification of texture.[201] This is evident in Example 27 (see page 59), where the introductory motif, the first subject, and a middle line of crotchet triplets are employed simultaneously.


[196] In Samson, Jim. The Music of Chopin (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985), p. 130.

[197] ibid., p. 130.

[198] Samson is here referring to the absence of the first subject in the recapitulation.

[199] It should be noted that the sonatas of Haydn do not exhibit such inclinations.

[200] ibid., p. 132.

[201] ibid., p. 132.


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