Cello Sonata in g minor, Op.116
“Philipp Scharwenka is an absolute master of composition. His violin and cello sonatas, his string quartets, piano trios and piano quintet belong to the most perfect and tonally beautiful works of their type." The famous music critic and scholar Hugo Leichtentritt.
Philipp Scharwenka (1847-1917) was born near Posen, then part of Prussian Poland. He moved to Berlin in 1865 to complete his musical education. A good pianist, he primarily devoted himself to composition and teaching at several of Berlin’s leading conservatories, finally joining the faculty and serving as director of the conservatory founded by his younger brother, Xaver. Otto Klemperer was among his many students.
During his lifetime, his orchestral compositions were featured regularly in German concert halls, but the common consensus is that his chamber music was his best work. Besides several instrumental sonatas, he wrote two string quartets and a Piano Quintet. All three of these are late works and written within a short time of each other, around 1910. The idiom is late German Romantic, which by that time was certainly a retrospective style. The appearance of these works in 1910, rather than say in 1890, no doubt played a role in their not receiving the attention they should have for they are very accomplished works.
Scharwenka's Cello Sonata in g minor, composed around 1898, is, from a compositional standpoint, quite daring. In the first place the work is formally in one movement, although there are several subsections which could themselves be considered movements. It begins with a slow and darkly colored Lento pathetico introduction which has the quality of a recitative and is quite passionate and as the title suggests full of pathos. A brief cadenza leads to the middle subsection, Andante, which is highly charged and dramatic. The finale section, Allegro con brio, is in the major and is a lively and even playful rondo full of forward motion.
This a first rate late romantic masterwork which should be of interest to every cellist. In the recital hall it is sure to be received with acclaim. Out of print for many years now, we hope that hearing this great work will convince cellists looking for something special to acquaint themselves with this fine sonata.