Episode 144: Chopin's Mighty Third

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58: iv. Presto


“Chopin’s creation was spontaneous, miraculous. He found it without seeking….It came suddenly-complete and sublime…”

George Sand, who watched Chopin compose his Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor continued, “…it sang itself in his head during a walk and he hurried to hear it himself by giving it to the piano.”

Sand recognized greatness, but it took a century for many critics to catch on. “His works in ‘sonata form’…are the failures of a genius that has overstepped its bounds,” declared Sir William Henry Hadow in his 1904 edition of Studies in Modern Music.

Chopin wasn’t following the rules. He opens with the spontaneous crackle George Sand described, follows with what would traditionally come third: a vivacious scherzo, and then plunges into a devastating Largo. What he saves for last provides a keystone of tension and contrast: the defiant roar of the Presto.

Hard to argue with that. “Nothing else in the corpus of Chopin’s work…is so uninterruptedly…and unmistakably great music as the finale,” wrote Herbert Weinstock in 1949--the year Billie Holiday declared Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do. By 1972 — the year Lou Reed Took a Walk on the Wild Side — another essayist declared, “…Chopin’s neglect of the sonata form, instead of being a defect, reveals his rare artistic subtlety and grandeur.”

In other words, it’s only rock and roll, but he likes it? - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 144: Chopin's Mighty Third

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58: iv. Presto

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