Frédéric Chopin

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, CT. 202

    Description by Robert Cummings

    Chopin wrote the Funeral March that became the third of the four movements here in 1837 and composed the other three movements two years later. Almost since it was first heard, this work was looked on not as a sonata in form, but as a collection of four rather diverse pieces the composer assembled under one musical roof, Robert Schumann being the first to make the charge of a lack of cohesion between the various movements. However, several musicologists in the late twentieth century pointed out a number of previously overlooked -- or at least ignored -- qualities in this composition that bind the movements as inseparable musical siblings.

    The sonata can be viewed as something of a life cycle. The first movement serves as the life force, struggling, loving, and suffering. The ensuing Scherzo enacts demonic forces in the main section and good forces in the lyrical alternate melody of the trio section. When this movement ends with a partial recalling of the second theme, it is not clear which set of forces has emerged victorious. The third movement Funeral March represents death or mourning for the hero of the first two movements. The ghostly finale, with its swirls of dark winds, has evoked many ominous images in the minds of listeners, and serves the life cycle here as a kind of final picture of the deceased, who lies in his quiet grave, with the rustles of the wind the only disturbance above.

    There are many thematic and harmonic relationships between the movements, too. The harmonies in the Funeral March can be noticed in all three of the other panels. Also, there is a thematic kinship between the alternate melody in the first movement and the lovely theme in the trio to the Scherzo. Other ties between the first two movements exist: both are stormy and hard-driven at the outset, and each features a lyrical second theme. The structural likeness between the main themes in both these movements is also worth noting: each is built on repeating motifs, the first part of which is presented twice before moving upward on the keyboard to complete the thematic idea.

    In the end, this sonata, while unorthodox in some respects, is a painstakingly worked out composition of great subtlety, hardly comprised of a loosely strung-together set of piano pieces. But for all its grand and profound design, it has always been Chopin's themes and keyboard writing that have made this work popular. The third movement Funeral March theme is as famous as any ever written, and the compelling nature of the fast themes in the first movements, and their alternate melodies as well, have made this sonata popular the world over. A typical performance of the work lasts from 22 to 26 minutes.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Grave - Doppio movimento
    2. Scherzo
    3. Marche funèbre. Lento
    4. Finale. Presto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 RCA Red Seal 88985499992
    2018 Warner Classics 567653
    2018 Medici / Medici Classics (formerly Monarch) M 30122
    2018 ABC Classics / Eloquence
    2018 Prima Facie PFCD 084
    2017 Suchkov & Suchkov W 0001
    2017 IBA [Idil Biret Archives] 8501503
    2017 Brilliant Classics 95209
    2017 Rubicon Classics RCD 1001
    2017 Erato 0190295869205
    2017 Hyperion CDA 68194
    2017 Challenge Classics CC 72728
    2017 Oehms Classics OC 460
    2017 Warner Classics 563938
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295812942
    2017 Sony Classical 88985416702
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4797371
    2016 Sony Classical 88875119792
    2016 Nardowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina NIFCCD 628
    2016 Nardowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina NIFCCD 627
    2016 Onyx Classics ONYX 4152
    2016 Erato 0190295974961
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796068
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795516
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795404
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875032272
    2016 Navona Records NV 6016
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon
    2016 Classic FM CFMD 41
    2016 Piano Classics PCLM 0104
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796018
    2016 TYX Art TXA 16074
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Profil PH 15012
    2015 Paladino Music PMR 0059
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794350
    2015 Sony Classical 88875050462
    2015 Alto MCSCD 1300
    2015 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 88875127202
    2015 Sony Classical 88843062432
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon B002428202
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794647
    2015 Sony Classical 88843054582
    2014 Sony Classical 88843047122
    2014 Claudio CR 55852
    2014 CAvi-music 8553267
    2014 Paraty PARATY 112110
    2014 Praga PRDDSD 350110
    2014 Hungaroton HCD 3275051
    2014 Naïve V 5394
    2014 APR (Appian) APR 7401
    2014 Delphian DCD 34138
    2013 RCA Red Seal 88725484402
    2013 Maguelone MAG 111191
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    2013 Doremi Records DHR 79945
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    2012 Victor Elmaleh Collection VEC 102
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    2011 Fryderyk Chopin Institute NIFCCD 022
    2011 IPO 1018
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    2011 Idis / IDIS IDIS 6617
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    2011 Cembal d'amour CD158
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    Vox 9032
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    The Piano Library 194
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