After the piano, the cello seems to have been Chopin's favorite instrument. He wrote three pieces for cello and piano, more than for any other instrument. Two of the pieces were written early in his career while the Sonata For Piano And Cello was written late in his career, and it was the last work to be published while the composer was alive.
It was written in 1845-1846, a time of personal turmoil and physical illness for Chopin. His relationship with George Sand, the French authoress, had come to an end and the tuberculosis that he had been suffering with for years was getting worse. He struggled with the sonata and wrote to his sister:
I write a little and cross out a lot. Sometimes I am pleased with it, sometimes not. I throw it into a corner and pick it up again.
I. Allegro moderato - The work begins with an introduction by the piano. After this, the cello enters with a theme that is taken from material in the introduction. Most of the material of the first movement is derived from the piano introduction. The second theme is more gentle and is not developed; when it appears again it remains the same as its first hearing. New themes are heard with each changing the character of the mood. Indeed, the ever-changing moods and complexity of the first movement has been one of the reasons the sonata is not one of Chopin's more popular works. The development section continues introducing themes and changing others. The recapitulation is much shorter as some f the themes are not revisited, but the gentle second theme is heard once again. Chopin pushes the music to the conclusion of the movement and it ends with two terse chords.
II. Scherzo - The scherzo is written in D minor and varies from lyrical to rapid runs and hammered chords. The trio is in D major with a long melody sung by the cello. The scherzo is repeated and ends with a loud chord.
III. Largo - A brief nocturne written in B-flat major. Piano and cello have a tender conversation that gently ends all too soon.
IV. Finale, Allegro - Chopin begins the finale with a dramatic theme. The second theme is less dramatic but still carries the dotted rhythms of the first theme. The dotted rhythms continue as Chopin changes the mood with material in the major mode. The development section has Chopin treat material contrapuntally. The tempo increases and both instruments make their way to the brilliant ending in G major.