Chopin's Last Message: A Study of Frederic Chopin's Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 65
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Frédéric Chopin’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 65, is an undervalued masterpiece that has been unfairly misrepresented in the history of musical criticism. This essay offers a new appraisal of the piece based on historical research, Chopin’s correspondence, detailed formal analysis, and a study of expressive tools used to enhance this sonata. The first section provides background on the popular criticism of Chopin's oeuvre, the genesis of the cello sonata, and Chopin’s enduring friendship with August Franchomme. This is accomplished through a discussion of contemporary critical writings on Chopin’s music and recent analytical studies of his sonatas in particular. His letters are referenced to help demonstrate personal and professional situations he experienced during the composition of the cello sonata. Additionally, a brief history of his friendship with August Franchomme, the cellist to whom the work is dedicated, illustrates his deep commitment to close friends in his circle and documents circumstances surrounding the debut of the work. The second section delves into Chopin’s correspondence during the years 1830-1849 to help illuminate how melancholia or depression and ill health affected his life and work. His struggle to compose the cello sonata makes sense when viewed through the anecdotal evidence in his letters to friends and colleagues. His letters also reveal supporting information that connects his works, late style, failing health, and melancholia during the final years of his life. Lastly, through an analysis of the first movement’s formal structure and an outline of the various quoted themes Chopin included throughout the sonata, this essay will explore how the cello sonata fits within the context of his late style. Darcy and Hepokoski’s seminal work on sonata theory, Andrew Davis’ article on Chopin and the Romantic Sonata, and Janet Schmalfeldt’s article on evaded cadences are referenced throughout the analysis to help support the findings. Chopin integrated expressive devices including evaded cadences and quoted themes to create a work that is singular among instrumental sonatas in the Romantic period.