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



Particularly interesting is the reason Samson offers for the lack of the first subject in the recapitulation of the first movement. He dismisses the oft-quoted opinion that its extensive use in the development renders a repeat in the recapitulation redundant, stating that, by the same token, many a Mozart movement would exhibit thematic redundancy.[202] Rather, he believes that the reason lies behind the choice of strongly contrasting characters for the first and second subjects of the exposition; this, in turn, has a profound effect on the overall shape of the movement.


The function of the Classical exposition is to present a tonal opposition; the first subject is quoted in the tonic, while the second is in a key other than the tonic. This tension is resolved in the recapitulation with the return of the second subject in the tonic key. The first movement of Chopin's opus 35, however, is conceived differently. Samson maintains that the function of the lyrical second theme is to resolve the tension and drama of the first theme, and that the response to the exposition (i.e., the development and recapitulation) preserves this relationship.[203] Therefore, the drama and energy of the first subject is heightened by motivic development while the stability and calm of the second subject is achieved through a return to the tonic key. The result is a model with an overall shape that inevitably results in a slackening of formal and tonal bonds of the Classical sonata. This accounts for Samson's proposition that the intra- and inter-movement motivic and thematic links (as illustrated in Chapters Seven and Eight in the work of Leichtentritt, Réti and Walker) assume a largely compensatory role.[204]


As far as the Scherzo is concerned, Samson notes that it takes "...its cue from the muscular, rhythmic energy of Beethoven," thus highlighting a Beethovenian influence on opus 35, an issue discussed on page 65.[205] Again, he makes reference to Chopin's use of different genres embedded in one movement; in this case a berceuse as the main subject of the Trio, and suggestions of the polonaises and scherzi in the first subject of the Scherzo. Likewise, he points to a nocturne embedded in the Funeral March. In conclusion, Samson states that Schumann was correct in his observation that opus 35 is no ordinary sonata. He cites the juxtaposition of contrasting, relatively


[202] ibid., p. 132.

[203] ibid., p. 133.

[204] ibid., p. 133.

[205] ibid., p. 130.


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