Chopin’s Sonata in G minor, Op. 65 for cello and piano was the last composition published during his lifetime. Completed in 1846, the sonata was dedicated to Auguste Franchomme, a cellist and long-time friend of Chopin's, with whom Chopin collaborated in writing his Grand Duo Concertant for cello and piano. Chopin and Franchomme premiered the work at Chopin's last concert in Paris, and due to Chopin's failing health only the last three movements were performed. In a concert hall filled with flowers and an admiring audience of three hundred of the Paris elite, the concert was a smashing success. Chopin was called back several times to thunderous applause, finally repeating his D-flat Waltz as an encore. The work has stood the test of time. Its unity exists on a level which is difficult to discern at first hearing, but is there nevertheless. Certainly, with its Chopinesque harmonies and continually evolving form, the Sonata would have sounded somewhat bizarre to audiences familiar with the more classical sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven. Also, although Chopin gained great popularity as a composer of miniatures, such as his waltzes, mazurkas, and other more virtuosic solo pieces, not many of his larger-scale works, particularly his piano sonatas, were appreciated in his day. Schumann said of the B-flat Piano Sonata, Op. 35 that Chopin had “bound together four of his maddest children"; elsewhere the work is referred to as “an enigma wrapped in a mysrery.
With the cello Sonata, Chopin proves himself to be a master in understanding the rich melodic possibilities of the cello. Chopin must have been fond of the instrument, as he wrote four of his five total chamber works for cello—the Grand Duo Concertant for cello and piano, the Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante, Op. 3 For cello and piano, and the Trio, Op. 8 for violin, cello and piano. In the Sonata, Chopin experiments with the relationship between piano and cello, exploring a wealth of different textures including piano solo in the opening of the first movement, lightly accompanied cello, cello with a piano countersubject, and piano solo with cello accompaniment.
The first movement, Allegro moderato, opens with a piano solo reminiscent of the grand orchestral introduction of the much earlier piano concertos. The cello begins a dialogue with the piano which develops to a climax, resolving into the most exquisite of second themes. The piano plays this theme alone, tension held in supreme stillness. From this point on, Chopin develops the material as a true craftsman, allowing the melody and other relevant materials to evolve organically into a tightly integrated whole. The second movement is a spirited scherzo with a middle section of extraordinarily romantic loveliness. The third movement, marked Largo and Cantabile, contains a melody of almost Schumannian pathos. The colors and transcendent peace of this movement bear striking resemblance to the middle section of the Marche Funébre from Chopin's Piano Sonata in B-flat minor, Op. 35. The Finale of this sonata provides a fiery and passionate conclusion to the work.