Violin Sonata in b minor, Op.110
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 Violin Sonata in b minor, composed around 1900, is certainly one of the most exciting and original late romantic sonatas ever written. The big opening movement, Allegro, in the form of a moto perpetuo, begins with brilliant, flashing downward strokes in the violin over an agitated tremolo in the piano. The development and expansion are breath-taking. This is very impressive and powerful writing so original as to be virtually unique. The huge second movement, Largamente--Andante con moto--Allegro con moto--is three movements in one, in the form of a fantasia. The Largamente opens in highly dramatic fashion creating great suspense. The writing is in the form of a recitative, tinged with Hungarian overtones. Without pause, the Largamente seamlessly becomes an Andante con moto. Here, the violin, in its highest register, plays a lovely song of hope. Again, as you can hear from our sound-bite, the Andante, seamlessly turns itself into an exciting finale, Allegro con moto.
This sonata is an unqualified masterwork. Out of print for many years now, we hope that hearing this great work will convince violinists looking for something special to acquaint themselves with amazing sonata.