Chopin's Piano Sonata in B Flat Minor - Schumann's critique (1841) of Chopin's Opus 35 (Appendix A)











To look at the first measures of the . . . sonata and still not be sure who it is by, would be unworthy of a connoisseur. Only Chopin starts so and only he ends so, with dissonances through dissonances in dissonances. And yet, how much beauty this piece contains. What he called "Sonata" might better be called a caprice, or even a wantonness [in] that he brought together four of his wildest offspring perhaps in order to smuggle them under this name into a place where they otherwise might not fit. One imagines some cantor, for example, coming from the country into a music centre in order to buy some good music; he is shown the newest [things]; he will have none [of them]; finally a sly fox shows him a "sonata"; "yes", he says happily, "that is for me and a piece still from the good old days"; and he buys and gets it. Arriving home he goes at the piece-but I would have to be very wrong if, before he even gets painstakingly through the first page, he will not swear by all the holy musical ghosts that this [is] no ordinary sonata style but actually godless [trash]. Yet, Chopin has still accomplished what he wanted; he finds himself in the cantor's home, and who knows whether in that very home, perhaps years later, a romantic [-ally inclined] grandson will be born and raised, will dust off and play the sonata, and will think to himself, "The man was not so wrong after all."

With all this, a half judgement has already been offered. Chopin no longer writes anything that could be found as well in [the works of] others; he remains true to himself and has reason to.

It is regrettable that most pianists, even the cultivated ones, cannot see and judge beyond anything they can master with their own fingers. Instead of first glancing over such a difficult piece, they twist and bore (their way) through it, measure by measure; and then when scarcely more than the roughest formal relationships become evident, they put it aside and call it "bizzare, confused etc.". Chopin in particular (somewhat like Jean Paul) has his decorative asides and parentheses, over which one should not stop too long at the



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