Chopin composed the Sonata in G minor for Piano and Cello in the years 1845 to 1846. According to his letters, Chopin struggled to compose for an instrument other than the piano, but the resulting work shows none of the strain. The Cello Sonata was written for and dedicated to Auguste Franchomme, a French cellist and composer. It was the last work of Chopin’s that was published when he was alive, and the composer and Franchomme premiered the work in early 1848, at Chopin’s last public concert in Paris.
The sonata is constructed in four movements, with an opening Allegro moderato. The opening phrase played by the cello influences so much of the rest of the piece, in all of its movements. This music is very dramatic, with sudden shifts of mood. Although adhering to the basic shape of sonata form, Chopin takes some liberties, and the result is an emotional presentation. A quick Scherzo follows, and the rapid motion of the themes allows for a talented display by both players. The trio section provides contrast, offering a lyrical passage. The subsequent Largo movement isn’t even thirty measures long, but what it lacks in length it makes up for with deeply felt emotion. It is by turns both yearning and hopeful. The lively finale demonstrates Chopin’s refined sense of rhythm. The piano and cello seem to spur each other on, and this skillful interplay between the instruments makes one wonder what might have been if Chopin had continued to compose for another ten or twenty years.