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Music in the Nineteenth Century


CHAPTER 7 Self and Other
Richard Taruskin

Strangely enough, the pieces in which Chopin strayed furthest beyond the boundaries of what his contemporaries thought normal and intelligible were his two mature sonatas (in B♭ minor, op. 35, published in 1840, and in B minor, op. 58, published in 1845), works belonging to the most traditional and classical genre to which Chopin applied himself. It was precisely his failure or unwillingness to reckon with the obligations of genre, the expectations to which title words give rise, that made his sonatas hard to understand. To recall Schumann's point, quoted in the previous chapter, “we are accustomed to judge a thing from the name it bears,” and, more pointedly, “we make certain demands upon a fantasy, others upon a sonata.” Later, confronted with Chopin's B♭ minor sonata, the same Schumann expressed his bemusement in one of his funniest paragraphs:

The idea of calling it a sonata is a caprice, if not a jest, for he has simply bound together four of his wildest children, to smuggle them under this name into a place to which they could not else have penetrated. Let us imagine some good country cantor visiting a musical city for the purpose of making artistic purchases. All the newest compositions are laid before him, but he does not care to know them; finally, some rogue hands him a sonata: “Ah, yes, that is something for me, a composition of the good old days,” says he delighted, and buys it at once. At home he takes up the piece, and I am much mistaken if he does not vow, by every musical divinity, that this is no sonata style but rank blasphemy, even before he has painfully ground out the first page at the keyboard. But Chopin has achieved his goal: he has penetrated into the cantor's residence; and who knows whether, in years to come, in the same dwelling there may not be born some romantic grandson who some day will dust off the sonata, play it, and think to himself, “This man was no fool!”21

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 7 Self and Other." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2023. <https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-007009.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 7 Self and Other. In Oxford University Press, Music in the Nineteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 6 Dec. 2023, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-007009.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 7 Self and Other." In Music in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 6 Dec. 2023, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1-007009.xml
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