The 4th movement (“presto”) of Chopin’s sonata op. 35 can seem enigmatic. Especially if you read the sheet music for the first time, or hear it played at concerts, it may be difficult to make sense of it.

One common interpretation is that this part should resemble the “wind howling around the gravestones” – this quote is attributed to Anton Rubinstein (not to be confused with Artur Rubinstein).

Wilhelm von Lenz (one of Chopin’s piano students) gives a similar description:

I didn’t know an artist, who knew what to do with the unison finale of this sonata. Only Tausig could perform it pianissimo, with incredible speed, which created an image of a tryst of ghosts chasing above cemetery graves. 1)

Wilhelm von Lenz

But what does Chopin himself say about this movement? His friends frequently advised him against putting this “presto” in the sonata, but Chopin insisted on keeping it:

What do you want? (he said) It’s funeral march, and after the funeral, as you know, everyone goes home as quickly as possible. 1)

Fryderyk Chopin

This is the only quote from Chopin I could find where he references this “presto” movement.

So it seems now we know of at least 2 different interpretations: wind/ghosts at the cemetery or people quickly going home after a boring funeral.

1) I had to translate the quotes by Lenz and Chopin myself, because I could not find any English translation of the Polish text.