Piano Sonata No. 2 (Chopin)
Frédéric Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35, popularly known as The Funeral March, was completed in 1839 at Nohant, near Châteauroux in France. However, the third movement, whence comes the sonata's common nickname, had been composed as early as 1837.
The sonata comprises four movements:
- Grave – Doppio movimento
- Marche funèbre: Lento
- Finale: Presto
The first movement features a stormy opening theme and a gently lyrical second theme. The second movement is a virtuoso scherzo with a more relaxed melodic central section. 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 unremitting parallel octaves, with unvarying tempo and dynamics, and not a single rest or chord until the final bars. 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." Arthur Rubinstein is said to have remarked that the fourth movement is the "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.)
As noted above, the third 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, the expression "Chopin's Funeral March" is used commonly to describe only the funeral march proper (in B-flat minor).
It was transcribed for full orchestra in 1933 by the English composer Sir Edward Elgar (in D minor), and its first performance was at his own memorial concert the next year. It was also transcribed for large orchestra by the conductor Leopold Stokowski; this version was recorded for the first time by Matthias Bamert.
The emotive "funeral march" has become well known in popular culture. It was used at the state funerals of John F. Kennedy, Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher and those of Soviet leaders, including Leonid Brezhnev. It was also played in the funeral of the Spanish poet Miguel Hernández and at the graveside during Chopin's own burial at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
The sonata's opening bars allude to Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32, Op. 111, Beethoven's last. The basic sequence of scherzo, funeral march with trio, and animated, resolving finale, repeats that of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 12 A-flat major; however, Chopin's first movement is written in sonata form while Beethoven's first movement is a set of variations on an original theme. Chopin was known to have admired these two Beethoven sonatas.
- Thompson, Damian. "Courage, not madness, is the mark of genius". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 7 December 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- Fryderyk Chopin – A Chronological Biography, accessed 21 May 2007
- Petty, Wayne C. (Spring, 1999). "Chopin and the Ghost of Beethoven". 19th-Century Music 22 (3): 281–299. JSTOR 746802. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
- Piano Sonata No. 2: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Piano Sonata No. 2 sheet music available at Musopen.com
- Recording of Sonata No.2 performed by the pianist Alberto Cobo