String Quartet No.2 in D Major, Op.120
Scharwenka's Second String Quartet dates from 1912 and is one of the last compositions he wrote. The famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann praises it as "Fresh, fluent and with excellent workmanship."
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.
String Quartet No.2 begins with a restless Allegro moderato that conveys the forward motion of travel. The short second movement, Tempo di minuetto, bears no resemblance to a minuet but is a cross between an intermezzo and a scherzo. A lengthy, sad and searching Andante tranquillo e mesto follows. It appears to be an elegy or memorial. The writing is very fine The finale, Pastoral, Die Kohlhasenbrücker Fuge is not pastoral, but a kind of boisterous rustic dance, lively and quick. The fugue takes its name from the region where the composer had a country home.
A pity that this fine work has been forgotten. Either out of print for long years or very hard to find, we hope by making it available again, it will be revived.