1844: Chopin Sonata No. 3

SUNDAY, January 10, 2021 – 6:24 PM

Chopin Sonata No. 3, age 34

I was still a very young kid when I first heard this music. I had already started to buy my own recordings, because it was still in the late 50s and very early 60s. There was on YouTube. I knew I had heard some famous music by Chopin, and my mother took me to a record store. I saw an album with two sonatas, No. 2 and No. 3. Less than 10 years later I performed No. 2. It turns out that there is another one, No. 1, but it’s almost never performed because it is a very early work and far less mature.

You want to start first with the last movement, because it’s the one everyone wants to play and is one of the most exciting things Chopin every wrote:

Start here:

Rafal Blechacz

I get very tired of young players who are over-hyped and just win some competition. Often they disappear completely in just a couple years. But competitions are sort of a necessary evil for young pianists, and every so often a contest winner is “the real deal” and goes on to gain worldwide fame. Some of the best have had magnificent careers for decades. Among others are Argerich, Pogorelich, Zimerman and so many others I would be here all days just typing names.

Dinu Lipatti

Lipatti set the world on fire. He died tragically from cancer around the age of 30. This particular performance was only heard on a very poor recording, but this new issue gives us very good sound and a very good idea what it was like to hear him. This is so good, it’s unbelievable.

Now the whole sonata

Rafal Blechacz

This year I’m trying to find as many live recordings as possible, and this young pianist is just a fantastic place to start. I may add other recordings, and I may add a ton of them because this sonata has been a crowd pleaser for over a century and half. Some of the other recordings you may actually prefer, but you won’t get to see the players, and for students seeing it terribly important.

Lost in a sonata

The last movement I believe is easily one of the best things Chopin ever wrote. Why do we not hear it even more? Probably because tradition is a very powerful force, and it is almost considered “bad taste” to play only one movement of a sonata – a way of thinking I could not disagree with more.

This movement could and should be a famous encore.

Ivo Pogorelich

He became internationally famous overnight because of a scandal. He washed out of an early round of a famous competition. Argerich, who was a judge, stormed off in protest, so as a result of the stink he had instant fame. He was one of the most interesting pianists I’ve ever heard. Sometimes I absolutely hate what he did, other times I love his ideas, which to me is what I look for, someone who challenges my ideas.


She was at her peak here. This is the only the last movement, but perhaps you can see why she was one of Horowitz’s famous pianists. There has never been a man who played with more fire and intensity. Unfortunately there is nothing to see.

Who else?

There are probably 50 recordings on YouTube, so many that I can’t possibly listen to them all, but I will listen to more. Anyone who plays the piano and does not listen daily is not serious and will never be great. Listening is the most important thing we do.

7 thoughts on “1844: Chopin Sonata No. 3

  1. Almost 1 1/2 years later, and I’m listening to Lipatti. Breathtaking. There are the notes the composer wrote, and then there is what the pianist does with the notes, which is beyond the notes.

  2. Pffffft. We live in the era of “busting paradigms” and breaking rules.

    I, for one, enjoy breaking up whole works. My classical mixtapes (that’s playlists on linear non-skippable tape for our younger readers here ;o) were full of a movement from this, a few movements from that, and this other thing, because there’s only so much music you could fit on 45 minutes’ worth of tape (that’s half a C-90 for you young ones out there ;o) God I love digital. I carry all of Beethoven’s symphonies and so much more on one skinny old beat ipod hidden in my car =o)

  3. Chopin 3rd Sonata – I am not familiar with this piece. It appears to be quite difficult technically. After listening to this last movement I’m now interested in hearing the complete Sonata.

  4. I was given a piano and a book of sonatinas as a child, with the idea that I could learn by myself, which to some degree I did. I had no idea that the movements were “supposed to” only played together as a unit, so I happily played my favourite movements, seeing them each as “pieces”. I agree that the convention that sonatas must be played together or not at all seems a shame.

    I’ve only listened to the one movement (so far), which I enjoyed thoroughly.

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