Piano Quartet in F Major, Op.37
Franz Xaver Scharwenka (1850-1924) was born in the small town of Samter near what is now the Polish city of Poznan (German Posen) in what was then part of Prussia. He learned to play the piano at an early age and his extraordinary talent was clear to all. At 15, he moved with his family to Berlin, where he studied with Theodore Kullak, one of the most renowned piano teachers of his day. He also received instruction in composition. Subsequently, he began touring as a concert pianist and was widely regarded as one of the best then performing. He founded two conservatories, one in Berlin and another in New York. He composed in nearly every genre with his four piano concertos being regarded by him as well as nearly everyone else as his most important works.
Is has been "reported" that Scharwenka regarded his own chamber music of lesser importance. However, this seems difficult to posit, given the fact that his first published work was his Piano Trio No.1. It was published while he was still in his teens by Breitkopf & Härtel, one of Germany's most prestigious publishers. While it is true that all of Scharwenka's chamber music includes the piano, on the other hand, he often performed his own works in concert and the parts given to the strings are in no way of lesser importance than that of the piano.
A good example of this is his Piano Quartet in F, Op.37 which dates from 1876. It was premiered with great success in Berlin and then in London a few months later. London critics hailed it as "An artistic and highly effective work." Our sound-bites make it clear why. Contrary to what was "reported", it is clear that Scharwenka was proud of this work as he often performed it himself in concert.
In four movements, the opening theme to the dramatic, powerful and big Allegro moderato is one of great promise and destiny. The following, Adagio, begins in a somber, almost funereal mood and retains the aura of an elegy throughout. Next comes a wild, frenetic scherzo, Allegro vivace, truly superb. The robust finale, Allegro con fuoco, is a fiery bacchanal, suffused with catchy melodies and driving energy.
Again, here we have another work, long out of print, which certainly deserves to be heard in concert. It is clearly at the top of its class and ought to take its place alongside of all of the other great piano quartets.