x scharwenka

Xaver Scharwenka

Franz Xaver Scharwenka (6 January, 1850, Samter, Prussia (now Szamotuły, Poland) - 8 December, 1924, Berlin, Germany) was a German pianist and composer. He founded his own music school in Berlin and New York City, and also organised concert series. He was generally known by his middle name Xaver.

Life and career

With his family, he moved to Berlin in 1865 where he studied music under Theodor Kullak. His older brother (Ludwig) Philipp Scharwenka (1847–1917) was also a composer and teacher of music.

Scharwenka did not start formal music studies until he was 15, although he began learning to play the piano by ear when he was 3. He began touring as a concert pianist at 24, in 1874, and was praised for the beauty of his tone. He was a renowned interpreter of the music of Chopin.

In 1881 Scharwenka founded his own music schools in Berlin, and from 1891 to 1898 directed his Scharwenka Music School in New York City. In 1893 the Berlin Scharwenka Conservatory was united with the Klindworth Conservatory, and in 1898 he returned there as Director, from New York. In 1914, with W. Petzet, he opened a School of Music with pianoforte teachers' seminary attached. Among pianists who received some instruction from him were José Vianna da Motta, Fridtjof Backer-Grøndahl and Selmar Jansen. His Methodik des Klavierspiels was published in Leipzig in 1907.

In addition to his activities as a pianist, composer and founder of a music school, he also organized a series of concerts, focusing mainly on works by prominent composers of the century, including Beethoven, Berlioz and Liszt. Scharwenka made several recordings for Columbia Records in c 1905 and c 1908, including works of his own, as well as Chopin, Mendelssohn, Weber and Liszt: his account of Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu (op. posth. 66) is admired. There are also Welte-Mignon piano rolls, including the Chopin A flat Valse op 42, and the F minor Fantaisie (op. 49), his performance of which was famous.


Scharwenka's own compositions include an opera (Mataswintha), a symphony, 4 piano concertos, chamber music (all with piano part) and numerous piano pieces. The four piano concerti are substantial works. The first, in B flat minor, Op. 38, was completed in 1874 and premiered in the following year. Originally written as a solo piano fantasy, Scharwenka was dissatisfied, and reworked it with orchestra into this form. Liszt accepted the dedication and performed it in Berlin. Its first recording was made in 1968 with Earl Wild and the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Erich Leinsdorf. The Fourth concerto, in F minor Op. 82 (1908), was premiered on October 18, 1908 in the Beethovensaal, Berlin, with Scharwenka's student Martha Siebold as the soloist and the composer himself conducting.

Scharwenka's works were neglected for some years after his death; however, his "Polish Dance No. 1" in E-flat minor, Op. 3, No. 1 remained enormously popular. Since the mid-1990s, however, interest in his music has been rekindled, and recordings of most of his works are now available commercially. The recording of his Fourth Piano Concerto played by Stephen Hough with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Foster was voted Record of the Year by the British music magazine Gramophone in 1996. His Symphony in C minor, Op.60 received its CD premiere in 2004.

Selected works

  • Overture in G (1869)
  • Piano Trio No. 1 in F sharp minor, op. 1 (1868)
  • Violin Sonata in D minor, op. 2 (1868)
  • 5 Polish Dances for piano, op. 3
  • Scherzo in G major for piano, op. 4
  • Piano Sonata No. 1 in C sharp minor, op. 6 (1872)
  • Polonaise in C sharp minor, op. 12
  • Barcarolle in E minor, op. 14
  • Impromptu in D major for piano, op. 17
  • 2 Piano Pieces, op. 22: Novelette, Melodie
  • Valse-Caprice in A major for piano, op. 31
  • Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, op. 32 (1876)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 in Eb major, op. 36 (1878)
  • Piano Quartet in F major, op. 37 (1876-1877?)
  • Dance Suites, op.41
  • Polonaise for piano, op. 42
  • Piano Trio No. 2 in A minor, op. 45 (1878)
  • Cello Sonata in E minor, op. 46 (1877)
  • Andante religioso, op. 46a, the composer's arrangement of the Cello Sonata (1881)
  • Polish Dances, op. 47
  • Theme and Variations for piano, op. 48
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, op. 56 (1881)
  • 4 Polish Dances for piano, op. 58: Moderato, Lento, Allegro non tanto, Moderato
  • Symphony in C minor, op. 60 (1885)
  • Serenade for violin and piano, op. 70 (1895)
  • Piano Concerto No. 3 in C# minor, op. 80
  • Piano Concerto No. 4 in F minor, op. 82 (1908)
  • Eglantine Waltz for piano, op. 84
  • 3 Piano Pieces, op. 86: Nocturne, Serenade, Maerchen

Selected discography

  • Concerto for Piano No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 32 played by Earl Wild with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. Recorded in 1969. (As LP, RCA Red Seal SB 6815.) CD also contains Paderewski's Piano Concerto and Balakirev's Fantasia on Themes by Glinka (Elan Recordings no. 22660). ä
  • Concerto for Piano No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 32 played by Marc-André Hamelin with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Stern. Recorded in 2005. CD also contains Anton Rubinstein's Piano Concerto no. 4 (Hyperion Records no. 67508).
  • Concerto for Piano No 2, Op. 56 played by Michael Ponti with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Richard Kapp. Issued in 1971 as LP, VOX Candide STGBY 651. Also contains Scherzo Op. 4, Erzählung am Klavier no 2, Op. 5, Novelette Op. 22 no. 1, and Poloniase op 42.
  • Concerto for Piano No. 3 in C sharp minor, Op.80 played by Seta Tanyel with the Radio Philharmonie Hannover conducted by Tadeusz Strugala. Recorded in 1996. CD also contains Piano concerto no. 2 (Hyperion no. 67365)
  • Concerto for Piano No. 4 in F minor, Op. 82 played by Stephen Hough with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Foster. Recorded in 1995. CD also contains Emil von Sauer's Piano Concerto no. 1 (Hyperion no. 66790).
  • Symphony in C minor, Op. 60 (1885). Gävle Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christopher Fifield (Sterling 1060-2).



  • X. Scharwenka, Klänge aus meinem Leben (Koehler, Leipzig 1922). (autobiography).
  • Xaver Scharwenka, Sounds From My Life: Reminiscences of a Musician (Hardcover) by Xaver Scharwenka (Author), William E. Petig (Translator), Robert S. Feigelson (Introduction) (The Scarecrow Press, Inc.; Har/Com edition (April 28, 2007)). ISBN 13:978-0-8108-5669-1, ISBN 10:0-8108-5669-7. (This is the first English translation of the autobiography above. In addition to extensive annotations, the book includes an introduction providing an overview of Scharwenka's life and work, a comprehensive discography, and a CD of representative selections of Scharwenka's musical compositions.)
  • Matthias Schneider-Dominco, Xaver Scharwenka (1850-1924). Werkverzeichnis (ScharWV), (Göttingen 2003), ISBN 3-932622-68-5

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