Piano Sonata No. 2 (Chopin)

Piano Sonata No. 2 (Chopin)

Frédéric Chopin composed his Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35 ("Funeral March") mainly in 1839 at Nohant near Chateauroux in France, although the funeral march third movement had been composed as early as 1837.

The sonata consists of four movements.

# "Grave; Doppio movimento"
# "Scherzo"
# "Marche funèbre: Lento"
# "Finale: Presto"

The first movement features a stormy opening theme and a gently lyrical second theme. The second contains a calmer, more relaxed melodic theme. The third movement begins and ends with the celebrated funeral march in B flat minor which gives the sonata its nickname, but has a calm interlude in D flat major. The finale contains a whirlwind of unison notes with unremitting (not a single rest or chord until the final bars) unvarying tempo or dynamics (changes of volume); James Huneker, in his introduction to the American version of Mikuli edition of the Sonatas, quotes Chopin as saying "The left hand "unisono" with the right hand are gossiping after the March". Others have remarked that the fourth movement is "wind howling around the gravestones".

The Sonata confused contemporary critics who found it lacked cohesion. Robert Schumann suggested that Chopin had in this sonata "simply bound together four of his most unruly children." (See Schirmer's modern reprint of the Mikuli edition)

Funeral March

As noted above, the 3rd movement is structured as a funeral march played with a "Lento" interlude. While the term "funeral march" is perhaps a fitting description of the 3rd movement, complete with the Lento interlude in D flat major, when the "Chopin Funeral March" is actually played (typically by a brass ensemble) in a funeral procession, only the part in B flat minor is used. This "funeral march" adapted for brass as described, has become well known in popular culture. It was also used at the state funerals of John F. Kennedy and those of Soviet leaders, including Leonid Brezhnev. It was transcribed for full orchestra by the English composer Sir Edward Elgar in 1933 and its first performance was at his own memorial concert the next year. It was played at the graveside during Chopin's own burial at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. [ [http://www.dobrowolski.com/joeandpam/famouspols/chopin-bio.html Fryderyk Chopin - A Chronological Biography] , accessed 21 May 2007]


The sonata's opening bars allude to Beethoven's last piano sonata, Op. 111. The basic sequence of scherzo, funeral march with trio, and animated, resolving finale, repeats that of Beethoven's sonata in A-flat major, Op. 26. Chopin's first movement, however, is animated and in sonata form, unlike Beethoven's "Andante con variazioni". Chopin was known to have admired these two sonatas of Beethoven's [see Wayne C. Petty's article, Chopin and the ghost of Beethoven, "19-Century Music" XXII/3, 1999, pp. 281-299.] .

In popular culture

*The theme song of WWE Wrestler The Undertaker uses the funeral march as a major part of his theme.
*The first movement of this Sonata is the theme music for Dogga, a character from the 2008 Japanese Tokusatsu series Kamen Rider Kiva.


Further reading

*In his book "The Romantic Generation" (1995, Harvard University Press), Charles Rosen discusses in great detail many features of this sonata.

External links

* Piano Sonata No. 2 sheet music available at [http://www.musopen.com/sheetmusic.php?type=sheet&id=142 Musopen.com]
* [http://www.superopera.com/mp3/therecital/therecital.htm Recording of Sonata #2 performed by the pianist Alberto Cobo]

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