1. in bar 1, there is 'sotto voce' written between the right and left hand. what does it mean in this context? does it simply means to play softly or is it asking to play the right hand softly?(since performances oh this piece tend to play the right hand very quietly)

  2. in bar 1, on the right hand, there are accents and slurs on the quavers, is this pattern suppose to be continued on in the successive bars or are you suppose play regular quavers until its indicated again later?

  3. in bar 20 it is marked 'sostento'. what does that mean in this context?

  4. when the crescendo/descendo markings are written below the left hand like in bar 1 and 2, does that mean you are only suppose to change dynamic in the left hand?

  • 1. Sotto Voce might also refer to the string shift pedal, 2) Yes, whenever you notice a short batch of explicit markings and abrupt lack thereafter, it usually means continue as noted 3) sostenuto means stretched-out, sustained, not heavy but dragging, which probably refers to the bass register, and the way that it feels when playing - which then is indicated to not correct for it 4) yes, otherwise it would be in the middle Nov 28, 2023 at 21:52

1 Answer 1


With the caveat that in Chopin most all markings are open to the performer's interpretation ...

  1. Sotto voce applies to the right hand, which should be quiet, as the left hand has the melody.
  2. The pattern should continue throughout.
  3. The sostenuto in bars 17 and 21 (in most editions, but also here) means to draw out the deep left hand melody. In effect, it usually means subtly slowing down.
  4. The crescendo/descrescendo markings below the left hand staff apply only to the left hand. In Chopin they sometime mean "push ahead" or even "speed up" in addition to or instead of growing louder or softer.
  • 1
    Is the second sostenuto in the manuscript? (It's in the first German edition, but not the French.) If there is a second one, when would the first one end? My Henle edition isn't their most recent, but it's in m.17 only. Sostenuto doesn't always mean a subtle slowdown. Brahms almost always follows a sostenuto with an a tempo and, depending on the piece and style, a sostenuto can be quite pronounced as in his Hungarian Dances. The term is a tempo direction to sustain (lengthen) the note values--hence a slowdown. If one infers added expression is called for, that's fine
    – DjinTonic
    Nov 18, 2023 at 22:07
  • @DjinTonic By happy accident, I have a very recent printing of the Henle in hand, and they mark the sostenuto only in 17, not 21. Actually, in this printing the word starts at the end of 16, not waiting until after the bar starts 17. But that's just an engravers choice, and I've seen it the other way in other printings. ╱ After you mentioned this, I checked how the delightful Greg Niemczuk articulated those measures for his analysis. He plays it in full at the start and end. Judge for yourself, but I hear sostenuto in his 21 as well as his 17.
    – tchrist
    Dec 31, 2023 at 1:46
  • @tchrist Fancy meeting you here! I listened a few times and I appreciate his flexible meter; however, I hear no sustenuto in mm 17 or 21 as I understand the term. I would note that Chopin used Sustenuto for the main tempo marking for his Preludes Op. 28 N.15 and Op.45.
    – DjinTonic
    Dec 31, 2023 at 3:37

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